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First Season Report: The PFL Is Here To Stay

With an exciting format and fights that entertained the world, the PFL has created a new way to enjoy combat sports.

It is an exciting time to be a fan of the combat sports world. With new fighters to watch out for and new organizations looking to thrive, there are endless possibilities. Taking advantage of that, the Professional Fighters League ended 2018 on a bright note and got people talking for what could be a very big 2019.

In case you missed it, the PFL held their tournament final, PFL 11, inside Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater on New Year’s Eve. Hard work resulted in the ultimate glory for six male fighters, while one woman showed that she is ready to take over. The detailed results from the event can be found here, with a few highlights to boot. The night started off with a bang, as a knockout by Louis Taylor secured his spot as the PFL Middleweight Champion and ended in a shocking upset in Magomed Magomedkerimov beating PFL standout Ray Cooper III.

In its infancy stage, the PFL proved that a tournament-style format works, and that it won’t be going anywhere. What is the proof in all of this? It was right in front of our noses:

Second Chances

Over 72 fighters who were either cut by the UFC or other major promotions were signed with the hope of securing their spot as a top fighter. With network deals with NBCSN and Facebook Watch, fans from all over the world were able to watch underdogs become human highlight reels, while several fighters were able to redeem themselves.

Speaking of viewers, over 5 million people watched the finals on the appropriate platforms. In regards to fan interaction, they had over 15,000 participate in their Pick ‘Em fantasy game, all thanks to their relationship with DraftKings.

Said PFL CEO Peter Murray in a press release: “The PFL Championship on New Year’s Eve from Madison Square Garden was an exclamation point on our fantastic inaugural season of reimagining MMA with the first-ever sport season format of individual fighters competing in regular season, playoffs, and championship.”

The format of the tournament makes it enticing for those fighters who want to work for something an opportunity to showcase who they really are.

Fighting For A Purpose

Every fight felt important throughout the tournament, and nothing was a throwaway bout. You had fighters like Chris Wade making great moments in order to prove himself, while Sean O’Connell made the last of his MMA career count. He retired on his own terms, producing something that will last a lifetime. Will Brooks, Brian Foster, Jake Shields and Kelvin Tiller were just a few names who were able to redeem themselves outside of the Bellator and UFC cage.

Not only were titles on the line, but $1 million that can go a long way. With families to feed and a passion to keep, the PFL helped provide the fighters with some closure and a true purpose in life when they thought they were down and out.

Experimenting for the Future

Yes, there wasn’t a female tournament this year. However, giving Kayla Harrison, an Olympic medalist with no prior MMA pro fights under her belt, the platform to show that she belongs was the key story of the first season. Kayla went 3-0 in Chicago, Atlantic City and The Big Apple while wowing fans with her relentless wrestling ability. Her dominating skills resulted in a future women’s tournament. As the face of it all, Kayla will look to improve as time goes on, which shouldn’t be a problem. With more women getting involved, you can feel a true change taking shape.

Instead of choosing the “major” promotions, the PFL gives you a true opportunity to test yourself, without the normal politics of the MMA world. Fighters learning how to better themselves in the tournament, whether it was by fighting once or twice a night, brought various possibilities for those enticed in joining the PFL. A genius move that will most likely be taken advantage of in later seasons.

With plenty of momentum heading into season two, the Professional Fighters League showed how valuable it can be to the MMA world. With an A+ show and a solid amount of talent, the sky is the limit. Get ready, folks, a true change is coming. Are you all aboard the PFL Express?

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Baseball Editor, Misc. Sports Editor. Covers all things combat sports (MMA, Pro Wrestling and Boxing). When he's not writing, Daniel hosts a podcast, The Main Event.
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