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Shane Burgos made the right call in leaving the UFC for PFL

The days of ‘UFC or bust’ are over - MMA fighters need to explore their options

The news that free agent Shane Burgos had signed with the PFL (Professional Fighter’s League) instead of re-upping with the UFC sent some tremors through the MMA world.

PFL CEO Peter Murray said of the signing, “We are excited to have Shane Burgos join the PFL’s 2023 Season roster as he is a top ranked, exciting and confident fighter in the prime of his career who recognizes the PFL provides top fighters an opportunity to compete on a major stage against the world’s best talent and there is a clear path for fighters to earn their way to becoming champion.”

UFC president Dana White was not as enthused with the news, “Basically, there were some mistakes that were made here, some shit that … he should have still been here,” White told Yahoo Sports. “I respect him very much and I wish him the best. A hundred percent [mistakes were made on the UFC side]. A hundred percent. Big mistakes were made over here.”

Burgos fought out his UFC contract in July. His last bout on that deal was a matchup opposite Charles Jourdain on the UFC Long Island card, which aired on ABC. Burgos won that scrap via majority decision. The Bronx-born brawler fulfilled his UFC contract on a two-fight winning streak. Burgos was 2-2 in his final four outings with the promotion. He received “Fight of the Night” bonus awards in his two losing efforts.

At the time he announced his move, Burgos was the No. 14 fighter in the official UFC rankings.

“It was not an easy decision,” Burgos said when he announced his move to PFL on The MMA Hour. “It was an offer I couldn’t turn it up. I’ve got two daughters, I’ve got to go back home, I’ve got to look at them in the face when it’s all said and done in this sport. With this deal I feel like that will secure that. Not taking anything away from my UFC career. Eleven fights in the UFC, that was a dream when I was 14 years old. I saw it for the first time on TV when I was 12 and was like, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ When I was 14 I made the decision, I started training at 15, and the UFC gave me the platform to be able to be in this position right now and then secure the deal that I just secured with the PFL.”

Burgos made the right move, for the right reasons.

When the 31-year-old Burgos was dreaming about a career as a professional fighter as a 12-year-old, the UFC was the pinnacle of MMA. Sure, there were other promotions, but none held the allure or the prestige of the UFC at that time, at least not to most American-born and bred fighters. Times have changed. With profits to be made, more players have joined the MMA promotion game and those additional participants have brought with them more opportunities — and more importantly to prize fighters — more money.

Burgos made it to the UFC in 2016. With that, he realized his dream. But reality has a way of forcing one to reassess dreams. With a family to support and a future to think about, Burgos was pragmatic in assessing his options and decided that fiscal responsibility was more important than being a part of the UFC’s content creation mill.

Burgos should be applauded for making that decision, but more than that, he should serve as a case study for other fighters who fight out their deals with the UFC — or any promotion.

With options for fighters increasing, the money to be made is rising as well. With that, a fighter who doesn’t at least explore what other promotions can offer is doing a disservice to themselves, their future and their family.

Shane Burgos realized that fact and he made the right move.