2024 was a massive year for the Professional Fighters League (PFL). The promotion made massive splashes such as signing former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou (17-3) as well as signing “The Problem Child” Jake Paul (8-1 Boxing) to an exclusive MMA contract with the hope of him making his debut in 2024.
While those were huge moves, there were moves that even out-shadowed those. I’m not talking about re-signing their rights deal with ESPN to keep them on the World Wide Leader. I’m talking about the massive acquisition of Bellator which solidified them in a position where they can make a run at being the co-leader in the MMA world.
This all brings us to the close of 2023 and the start of 2024. The upcoming year promises to be the biggest year in the history of the PFL. With so much momentum behind them as they close out 2023, let’s look ahead at three massive fights they need to attempt to make in 2024.
PFL Fights to Make
Francis Ngannou – Deontay Wilder (Mixed-Rules)
The first big fight I want to see the promotion make isn’t even a full MMA bout. Francis Ngannou made massive waves in the world of combat sports when he took on the heavyweight champion of the world in boxing, Tyson Fury. Nobody, including myself, gave Ngannou much of a chance to beat Fury.
While ultimately a split decision went in favor of Fury, the public saw Ngannou as the winner. The former UFC champion even dropped Fury in the matchup. While there’s potential for an Ngannou – Fury rematch in 2024, a fight I want to see the PFL make is a mixed-rules matchup featuring Ngannou and former boxing world champion Deontay Wilder (43-2-1).
Wilder has a matchup coming up this weekend and then he’s set to take on Anthony Joshua early in 2024. However, later in the year, I would love to see a matchup between the two men. While you’d think it would make sense for it to happen in a boxing ring, Wilder has expressed serious interest in doing a mixed-rules matchup.
PFL’s Donn Davis is also very interested and intrigued by the matchup. Davis admitted that a matchup with Wilder is much bigger than any MMA matchup they could make for Ngannou right now. If you want to maximize the dollars and eyes behind Ngannou’s debut, book him against Wilder.
Jake Paul – Nate Diaz
While there’s a solid chance the first fight happens, the next fight is far less likely to happen. However, it doesn’t stop me from putting it on my fights to make for 2024. The PFL should continue to do whatever they can to put together Jake Paul – Nate Diaz (21-13) inside the smart cage.
The two men had a boxing match back in August where Jake Paul won a decision. Paul said that he wanted to run it back in the PFL and the promotion has floated major dollars out there to Diaz to make the fight happen. Diaz has been interested in fighting Paul, but he’s not interested in the promotion.
Time and money can of course change everything. There have been behind the scenes whispers of a Nate Diaz – UFC return in 2024 and of course, that would kill this potential matchup. However, until that day happens, this fight remains a possibility and there would be no bigger fight for Jake Paul’s debut in my opinion.
Cris Cyborg – Kayla Harrison
The last fight on the list is one that I firmly believe will happen in 2024. That’s the matchup pairing former PFL champion Kayla Harrison (16-1) against current Bellator featherweight champion Cris Cyborg (27-2). Oh man there’s some heat behind this matchup as these two do not like each other at all.
Despite losing to Larissa Pacheco in the 2022 season, Kayla Harrison really remains the face in terms of female fighters for the PFL. Cyborg of course is one of the best of all time and has held world titles in every promotion she’s ever stepped foot in. This is a dream matchup that just needs to happen and I believe it will.
Now, tentatively, Cyborg is scheduled to face off with Larissa Pacheco when all the Bellator champions will face the PFL champions in early 2024. No confirmation or a date yet, but that’s the plan. Pacheco could throw a wrench in the whole thing should she knock off Cyborg.
That said, even if Cyborg does lose to Pacheco, I think PFL will book the Harrison fight. Perhaps even put the Bellator featherweight title on the line.