The world of mixed martial arts (MMA) promotions is incredibly competitive, especially if your organization is not the legendary UFC. The fight business is tough, and lesser-known companies often struggle to attract athletes that the MMA fan base recognizes and cares about. Additionally, gaining recognition and standing out from the crowd can be a daunting task. This is the reality that the Professional Fighters League (PFL) is currently facing. Despite facing unwanted scrutiny and challenges during the 2023 season, the PFL has managed to grab attention, thanks to some exciting developments.
Challenges Faced by the PFL
Throughout the 2023 season, the PFL has encountered various obstacles that have tested its resilience. Unfortunately, ten PFL fighters, including half of the light heavyweight division, failed drug tests and were suspended for the entire season. This incident raised doubts among fans and critics about the organization’s ability to enforce strict anti-doping policies. Another setback occurred when multiple fighters missed weight, resulting in unusual lose-and-possibly-advance situations during the playoff semifinals. Furthermore, the PFL made headlines for disqualifying a qualifying fighter from the playoffs, even though he won the fight, citing a lack of effort. These incidents have created significant background noise for the PFL, overshadowing their achievements.
Notwithstanding the challenges, the PFL has managed to create a buzz in the MMA world with the emergence of new stars. While the PFL’s existing star, Kayla Harrison, awaits the launch of the organization’s pay-per-view venture, another female fighter, Larissa Pacheco, has become a standout performer. Pacheco has delivered lightning-fast knockouts in her last two fights, winning in just 45 and 14 seconds, respectively. Her ability to finish fights quickly has made her an incredibly exciting and captivating fighter to watch, something that is highly valued in combat sports such as MMA. Pacheco’s rise to prominence and her previous upset victory over two-season champion Kayla Harrison have further added to the PFL’s allure.
The PFL has now reached the pinnacle of its 2023 season, with the championship fights in six weight classes set to determine the ultimate winners. Each bout brings its own unique story and intrigue.
Heavyweight Final: Goltsov vs. Ferreira
The heavyweight final promises an explosive showdown, with both fighters boasting a penchant for first-round finishes. Goltsov, a PFL veteran since 2019, has consistently earned a place in the playoffs. This will be his first appearance in the final, and his impressive regular-season knockouts combined with a lightning-quick submission win in the semifinals make him a strong contender. Ferreira, although technically unbeaten this season due to a no contest ruling, has also secured two early knockouts after a decision loss in his season opener. With their aggressive fighting styles, this final is likely to end before judges’ scorecards even come into play.
Light Heavyweight Final: Kasanganay vs. Silveira
The light heavyweight final has undergone significant challenges this season, losing notable fighters and previous champions midway. However, this has allowed opportunities for fighters like Kasanganay, who joined the PFL as a replacement and has made the most of his unexpected chance. With two impressive finishes to his name, he faces Silveira, a 2022 semifinalist who has knocked out all three of his 2023 opponents in the first round. This final is likely to be another explosive affair, with both fighters showcasing their knockout power.
Welterweight Final: Magomedkerimov vs. Sy
The welterweight final offers a classic clash of champions, with Magomedkerimov, the 2018 PFL champion, going up against Sy, the reigning titleholder. Sy has been on an impressive winning streak, with seven consecutive victories since his loss to Magomedkerimov in the 2021 playoff semifinals. Magomedkerimov, on the other hand, has a wealth of PFL experience, with this final marking his 16th fight in the organization. With their contrasting styles and history, this fight promises to be a thrilling contest.
Lightweight Final: Aubin-Mercier vs. Collard
The lightweight final pits defending champion Aubin-Mercier against the perpetually forward-moving Collard. Aubin-Mercier’s unbeaten record in the PFL, coupled with his ability to control the pace of his fights, positions him as a formidable opponent. However, Collard’s relentless aggression has earned him the nickname “Cassius” Clay, and he possesses an iron chin, having been knocked out only once in his extensive professional career. This clash of styles could produce fireworks inside the cage.
Featherweight Final: Pinedo vs. Braga
The featherweight final features two fighters who have pulled off surprising victories during the season. Pinedo stunned the MMA world with a knockout win over the 2022 champion, Brendan Loughnane, before securing his place in the playoffs with another upset victory over the top seed, Bubba Jenkins. However, Pinedo’s season opener saw him suffer a loss to Braga, who remains undefeated. This final offers an opportunity for Pinedo to avenge his earlier defeat and claim the ultimate prize.
The PFL’s journey through the 2023 season has been challenging, with numerous obstacles to overcome. However, the emergence of new stars and the high-stakes championship fights have showcased the organization’s ability to deliver thrilling and captivating MMA action. Despite the background noise of controversies and setbacks, the PFL has successfully captured attention and proved that it can stand out in a crowded market. As the championship fights approach, MMA fans eagerly anticipate the culmination of the season and the crowning of the PFL’s next set of champions.