In less than two months, the restructured Professional Fighters League (formerly World Series of Fighting) begins a new era, promising to bring a “regular season and playoffs” format to MMA that is common practice in major sports leagues such as the NFL, NBA, and NHL.
PFL only ran three minor events in 2017, closing out the remaining dates on its old contract with NBC Sports Group. Now under a new broadcasting deal with both NBC Sports Network and Facebook, the first PFL show is set for June 7th in New York City, with the featherweight and heavyweight divisions comprising the entire card.
MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani reports that this will be the debut lineup:
Andre Harrison vs. Jumabieke Tuerxun
Lance Palmer vs. Bekbulat Magomedov
Alexandre Almeida vs. Lee Coville
Magomed Idrisov vs. Steven Siler
Marcos Galvao vs. Nazareno Malegarie
Timur Valiev vs. Max Coga
Mike Kyle vs. Shawn Jordan
Denis Goltsov vs. Nick Rossborough
Jared Rosholt vs. Valdrin Istrefi
Caio Alencar vs. Jake Heun
Josh Copeland vs. Jack May
Francimar Barroso vs. Daniel Gallemore
As you can see, plenty of familiar faces in both divisions, including former WSOF and Titan FC champion Andre Harrison, ex-Bellator champ Marcos Galvao, ex-WSOF titleholder Lance Palmer, and UFC veterans Shawn Jordan, Steven Siler, Jared Rosholt, and Francimar Barroso.
PFL’s roster spans six divisions (featherweight up to heavyweight), with 12 fighters in each weight class, making for a total of 72 fighters.
The full roster is below:
According to the promotion’s official press release, 60% of the postseason prize money will go to the champions, who will each collect $1 million.
The 2018 PFL season will feature 126 fights in seven regular-season events, a bracket-style ”win or go home” playoff, and a $10 million post-season prize pool—the largest tournament prize pool in the history of MMA. The season will begin with 12 athletes in each of six different weight-classes. Eight fighters from each class will earn their way into the playoff round, and one fighter in each division will earn the title of champion.
All competitors will have to win two fights in one evening during the playoff round to advance to the championship event. Six fighters will take home a 2018 PFL championship belt and a $1 million purse.
Those who reach the playoffs will receiver $50,000 as quarterfinalists, $100,000 for the semifinals, and $200,000 for runners-up, per MMA Fighting.
The event schedule is as follows:
Thursday, June 7: Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, New York, NY (Featherweights and Heavyweights)
Thursday, June 21: Chicago Theater, Chicago, IL (Lightweights and Light Heavyweights)
Thursday, July 5: GWU Smith Center, Washington, D.C. (Welterweights and Middleweights)
Thursday, July 19: Nassau Coliseum, Long Island, NY
Thursday, August 2: Nassau Coliseum, Long Island, NY
Thursday, August 16: Ocean Resort Casino, Atlantic City, NJ
Thursday, August 30: Ocean Resort Casino, Atlantic City, NJ
Friday, October 5: Playoff Event (Venue and City TBA)
Saturday, October 13: Playoff Event (Venue and City TBA)
Saturday, October 20: Playoff Event (Venue and City TBA)
Monday, December 31: Championship Event (Venue and City TBA)
As noted earlier, all fighters who reach the playoffs have to win the quarterfinal and semifinal bouts on the same night to reach the final, so if you look at the schedule, the finalists have to fight five times in six months.
MMAjunkie picked up additional information on the regular season. Each fighter is guaranteed two fights under the traditional show/win payment structure. The points system incentivizes early finishes, and the top eight competitors all advance to the playoffs.
For the two regular season fights, which are three-round contests, athletes are awarded 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw. Additionally, fighters get 3 bonus points for a first-round finish, 2 bonus points for a second-round finish and 1 bonus point for a third-round finish. After everyone fights twice, the top eight fighters advance to a single elimination playoff system.
In the event of tiebreakers, “head-to-head result is the first such qualifier” but there are other rules in place to determine playoff seeding. Additionally, “Ties will not be allowed, nor will overtime rounds, and PFL officials are currently working with the planned host commissions to ensure judges can determine a winner, if needed.” Only the championship fights will be five rounds.
You may remember that Bellator MMA forbade elbows in tournament competition until the final. PFL is also banning elbows, but this also extends to the championship matches.
“We felt like if everyone is training and operating that way across their first, their second, their quarterfinal and their semifinal fight, we’d just keep the rule consistent,” PFL president Carlos Silva said to Newsday.
Per the press release:
Domestic and international fans will be able to watch all PFL regular season, playoff, and championship fights—over 66 hours of live action—for free, including the biggest event of the year, the PFL Championship. In the United States, NBC Sports Group will establish an exclusive live Thursday night PFL fight franchise, presenting seven regular-season live events in prime time exclusively on NBCSN from the first fight through the end of August. Events televised by NBCSN will also stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. All regular season events will have encore telecasts on NBCSN later the same night.
Outside the U.S., Facebook will stream up to six hours of free, live coverage for each event. Facebook will also open each event with a live 30-minute pre-fight show and close with a live 30-minute post-fight show. In the U.S., fans can watch the first three hours of coverage of each event on Facebook prior to NBCSN’s presentation of the main bouts.
It’s certainly something different and features a healthy mix of up-and-coming talent and longtime faces of the sport. We’ll soon find out about PFL’s long-term viability under new ownership, as well as the effectiveness and interest level in a league-style format despite the lack of major names on the roster.
Tickets go on sale for the first PFL show on April 18th.