PFL women’s lightweight and heavyweight finals set

MMA, PFL

Tonight, the PFL was back with their second playoff card of the 2021 season. The women’s lightweight division and heavyweight division took center stage this evening. In the main event, Kayla Harrison (10-0) took on Genah Fabian (4-1).

Harrison was the massive betting favorite heading into the 2021 PFL season and she made it look easy through her first two fights. She completely dominated her first two fights. Genah Fabian was looking to play spoiler by pulling off the massive upset.

However, it was not meant to be. Harrison did her thing and in the first round, she was able to take Fabian down. Once the fight was on the ground, it was simply a matter of time.

Harrison immediately transitioned to the mount and started brutalizing Fabian. Fabian gave up her back and Harrison rained down shots until the referee stopped the fight. Another dominant performance from Kayla Harrison.

In the other PFL lightweight semifinal, we saw Mariana Morais (17-11) take on Taylor Guardado (2-1). Originally, Larissa Pacheco was supposed to fight Guardado, but Morais stepped in after Pacheco missed weight.

The fight was very competitive between these two. Guardado did a good job with her pressure and landed some really solid shots in the first couple of rounds. Morais was able to use her judo to secure top position in the first and the third round.

The last two rounds were very easy to score with Guardado taking the second and Morais taking the third. The first round was incredibly close. Guardado landed the better shots while Morais secured a takedown. Ultimately, two of the three judges gave the fight to Guardado and she will now take on Kayla Harrison in the PFL finals.

PFL Heavyweight Finale Set

In addition to the women’s lightweight playoffs, we also saw the heavyweights battle it out for a spot in the PFL finals. In the first heavyweight semifinal matchup we saw the 2 and 3 seed go head-to-head as Russia’s Denis Goltsov (27-6) took on Croatia’s Ante Delija (18-4).

Heading into this matchup, Goltsov was a significant favorite. Delija was just 1-1 leading into the playoffs, and nobody was giving him much of a chance. However, he came to play spoiler tonight at PFL 8.

In the first two rounds, Goltsov was really controlling the first half of the round. However, Delija ended up on top to finish both rounds. In the first round, he controlled Goltsov for a significant portion of the round.

The third round was all Delija as he got an early takedown and controlled Goltsov. In the end, all three judges gave the fight to Delija as he pulled the upset and clinched a spot in the PFL finals.

Delija then sat back and watched Bruno Cappelozza (12-5) take on Jamelle Jones (12-6) in the other semifinal matchup. Cappelozza was another big favorite as the top overall seed after scoring two first round finishes. Jones was going to look to be the spoiler in this one.

However, it was evident from the opening minute that he was going to have his hands full. Cappelozza controlled the striking at range and showed off a big speed advantage in his matchup with Jones.

In the second round, a stiff left straight from Cappelozza put Jones down and he followed up to end the fight. Bruno Cappelozza will not take on Ante Delija in the PFL finals.

After failing to make the PFL playoffs, where does Anthony Pettis go from here?

Last December, PFL made huge waves when they signed former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis (24-12). The Professional Fighters League really wanted to invest in big names and they signed one of the biggest on the market.

The UFC tried to resign Pettis earlier in 2020, however, Showtime wanted to bet on himself. Pettis won his final two UFC fights and rode that momentum wave into free agency. Once on the open market, PFL made their big offer.

Pettis signed an exclusive deal with PFL just days after wrapping up his contract with the UFC. Heading into the 2021 season, there were a ton of eyes on Anthony Pettis. Pettis had a target on his back and he said that he relished that.

Back in April, Pettis made his debut with the promotion against Clay Collard. Collard dominated the first two rounds before Pettis came on strong and nearly got a finish in the third round. Ultimately, Pettis lost at PFL 4.

Last week at PFL 6, Pettis made his second appearance against Raush Manfio. Pettis needed a win of any kind to get a spot in the playoffs. However, after starting strong, Pettis was dominated in the third round which ultimately swung the decision in the favor of Manfio.

What’s next after being eliminated from the PFL playoffs?

With Anthony Pettis being eliminated, I think he’s going to take a little time off. PFL is shifting to their playoffs and it doesn’t look like Pettis will have an opportunity to compete until next year under the Professional Fighters League banner.

Now, PFL could always let him take a one-off fight in his down time. The promotion has hinted that they would allow fighters to do that. However, we don’t know if that’s the route that Pettis will take.

The former UFC lightweight champion is starting his own MMA Promotion called Showtime Fighting Championship. The SFC will make it’s promotional debut in October of this year. My guess is that Pettis will be focused on that and business ventures for the time being.

By all accounts, Pettis will be in the PFL in 2022. While PFL’s 2021 season was contained mostly in a bubble, hopefully when Showtime makes his return next year it can be in front of a packed crowd.

PFL 6 Results: Anthony Pettis eliminated from playoffs and Kayla Harrison stays perfect

The PFL returned tonight for their sixth and final regular season event of 2021. In the co-main event of the evening, former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis (24-12) returned as he took on Raush Manfio (13-3).

Pettis was a massive signing for PFL heading into the 2021 season. The Professional Fighters League put a ton of money behind Pettis and they hyped up the signing. It was a big signing for PFL, but Pettis needed to perform to make it worth it.

However, Pettis dropped his PFL debut to Clay Collard back in April. Tonight, he stood across the cage from Raush Manfio and he needed a win to even be in contention for the playoffs. A decision win for Pettis would’ve put him in tiebreaker, but a finish would’ve guaranteed him a spot.

PFL 6 Recap

I was incredibly encouraged with what I saw from Pettis in the opening rounds at PFL 6. Pettis looked much more aggressive and you could tell that he knew that he needed a big victory to advance to the playoffs.

Through the first two rounds, I thought that Pettis was getting the better of the striking at PFL 6. I had Pettis up 2-0 heading into the third and final round where the fight completely changed.

Early in the round, Manfio landed a big shot that hurt and dropped Pettis. Manfio then landed a big knee which put Pettis down a second time. Pettis was able to get back up and finished the round, but it was a clear round for Manfio.

Personally, I still had Pettis winning at PFL 6, but two of the judges didn’t agree. Raush Manfio took the split decision victory and eliminated Pettis from the 2021 playoffs. Definitely not what the promotion that was going to happen when they brought in Anthony Pettis.

In the main event of the evening, Kayla Harrison (10-0) returned to the cage. Harrison took on the veteran Cindy Dandois (16-7) who was looking to pull off the massive upset over the PFL queen. However, it was not meant to be.

As Harrison has done with all of her opponents, she went through Dandois like a hot knife through butter. Harrison picked up the first round armbar finish after dominating Dandois on the ground in the first. I don’t know if anyone in PFL can even be competitive with her at this point.

PFL promotes Loren Mack to SVP of Corporate Communications

The Professional Fighters League (PFL) announced the promotion of Loren Mack to Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications on Wednesday, just weeks ahead of the start of the PFL’s upcoming 2021 season.

Mack is an integral part of a broader executive team that is poised for excellence as the PFL, the fastest growing and most innovative sports league, continues to work towards its brand’s growth worldwide.

The PFL’s new season is set to kick off on April 23 on ESPN 2.

A highly experienced and globally recognized figure in the sports world, Mack was a tremendous addition to the PFL last year. He joined the company as Vice President of Corporate Communications in July 2020. Since then, Mack has been at the forefront of helping build the PFL brand — both in the United States and internationally — making it the number two MMA industry leader in just its fourth year of existence.

As Senior Vice President, Mack will play a broader role in growing the brand and business of the PFL, which includes further international expansion to the biggest MMA markets across the globe, while also building a team of like-minded individuals to work with, who are as passionate and as driven.

“I’m honored to be promoted to the role of Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications for the fastest-growing sports league in the world,” Mack said. “Working in the PFL means getting to work with some of the best executives in the business across sports, media, and technology and that pushes me to continue using my skills and my talents to help build one of the sport’s greatest brands in the PFL.

Mack’s promotion comes after the PFL recently bolstered their executive team with Tim Clyne’s appointment as Chief Financial Officer and Jon Werther as Executive Vice President for Strategic Partnerships and New Business. These moves bolster an already impressive top management team that features the best minds in sports, media, and tech.

Before joining the PFL, Mack had experience working with the biggest sports and media organizations globally, starting his career with the UFC. He also held Director of Communications’s title for BeritaSatu Media Holdings, Indonesia’s largest media organization.

Mack is currently working on his Doctor of Philosophy in Public Affairs at The Greenspun College of Urban Affairs at UNLV.

“Congratulations to Loren Mack, who has been promoted to SVP of Communications at PFL,” said PFL CEO Peter Murray. “The PFL continues to strengthen its world-class management team with expertise in MMA combined with broader sports, entertainment, media, and technology.”

This is just the latest big move for the PFL before the launch of their biggest season yet.

Recently, the league launched their “MMA’s League Is Back” campaign to highlight the upcoming season. The PFL also formed an Athlete Advisory Board led by pro football Hall of Famer and two-time Super Bowl Champion Ray Lewis. On the broadcast booth, the PFL also strengthened their lineup with the addition of former multiple-time title challenger Kenny Florian.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Donn Davis’ Midas touch turns PFL into gold standard in MMA

Professional Fighters League co-founder and chairman Donn Davis has put together an amazing group of investors that helped fast track its rise in the world of Mixed Martial Arts.

Among those investors include Swan & Legend Venture Partners and Matterhorn Private Equity and the likes of NBA’s Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, NHL’s New Jersey Devils co-managing partner and minority owner David Blitzer, MLB’s Washington Capitals owner Mark Lerner, actor Kevin Hart, MGM Television chief Mark Burnett, and American author, life coach and motivational speaker Tony Robbins.

The PFL has risen to the top two MMA leagues in the world, along with the UFC, thanks to its exclusive regular-season tournament-style league format, as well as its revolutionary use of tech to enhance fan and viewer experience with the use of their proprietary SmartCage technology.

Currently preparing for its 2021 season next year, the PFL is looking forward to massive growth through global expansion, including signing talents from across the world and potentially taking the product to international soil in the future.

Davis has been a huge part of the PFL’s success.

And it’s not hard to imagine how it came to be because Davis’ track record of success speaks for itself.

Davis, a Miami University graduate and University of Michigan Law School alum, began his career as an associate at the Sidley Austin law firm, before becoming Chief Legal Counsel for the Chicago Cubs.

In 1998, he earned what many believe as his big break, joining America online and helping take the American web portal to the next level.

Then in 2005, Davis, along with Steve Case, founded Revolution Growth, the venture that was responsible for putting brands such as Scopely, ZipCar, DraftKings, SportRadar, and BigCommerce on the map.

With his unbelievable foresight, Davis invested and became a co-owner of Team Liquid in 2016. It’s the most decorated franchise in eSports today.

Davis’ Midas touch has carried over to PFL.

PFL plans massive international expansion

MMA, PFL
The Professional Fighters League is eyeing a grand comeback next year including plans of international expansion.

PFL CEO Peter Murray bared that they are targeting an April return in 2021.

“We’re locked and loaded for next year,” Murray told Empire Sports Media in an exclusive interview. “Our broadcast partners are on board including ESPN. We will have more expansive coverage internationally. Our fighter contracts are all locked, our fighters are getting ready for next season which will start in April, a month earlier than the previous seasons.  All our sponsors have renewed, ready to go for next year.”

The PFL will stage its next season at a single location in the US and bring in their fighters from 20 countries all over the world.

“We’re looking at and execute the learnings from the NBA, even what the UFC has done very, very well.  We will have our version of it,” Murray said.  “And should the landscape of Covid-19 change and we hope it does then we are in a position to open up our events perhaps to fans and we look forward to that.”

The NBA has successfully continued its season in Orlando while the UFC has created its own Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.

With those as blueprints on how to insulate its product from the pandemic, the PFL is looking to get back on track and build on its momentum after shaking things up in the MMA with its string of innovations.

In 2017, the PFL introduced a season-format where fighters earn points to qualify for the playoffs and compete in championships in six weight classes. They have also capitalized on technology, providing real-time data analytics during fights for a more immersive viewing experience.

“This is the format that worked in the NBA, EPL, NFL, and other major sports and we feel that’s the key differentiator to re-imagine the MMA sports, grow the sport and scale the PFL around the world,” Murray said.

With meritocracy, transparency, and incentivizing athletes at the core, they were able to create an exciting league that is fast catching up with the UFC.

“We’re now in the No.2 market position in the world in just a short amount of time and we have a business plan for the growth of the sport and the PFL as a league. Our view is there’s more room for more than one leader and together, we’ll absolutely grow the sport and this sport has yet to peak. In the next 3-5 years, you’ll see much growth in the US and outside,” Murray said.

Murray also bared that they are holding talks with several countries for potential sites of their season-ender.

“We’re looking forward to our first event potentially outside the US, our year-ending championship. We are in discussion with select countries and destination partners,” Murray said.

“We are focused on the US next season but should the Covid-19 landscape change, we are contemplating our world championship in 2021 to partner with a country and a key destination, put on a fantastic, pinnacle sports entertainment event where each title fight has life-changing money on the line, a million-dollar cheque,” he added.

On top of its ESPN broadcast deal, the PFL is also being distributed in 160 countries worldwide and Murray said they are looking to expand more.

“Russia is an important market. Western Europe, Latin America, Southeast Asia are all critically important to us and there’s definitely future growth, massive opportunity in China, and India,” Murray said.

With their season on hold, the league has introduced a lot of original content from their PFL Studios headed by George Greenberg, a 16-time Emmy Award-winning producer, and director.

They have already produced the “Fantastic Finishes”, a seven-episode series that showcased the knockouts and submissions across the PFL’s six weight classes.  Meanwhile, the 10-episode “Inside The Season” provides fans inside access to their 2019 season with never-before-seen footage.

They have also lined up two more series: “A Champion’s Journey” and “The Randy Couture Story”.  The former will give a spotlight on their elite fighters such as Kayla Harrison, Lance Palmer, and Ray Cooper III, and newcomer Rory McDonald, while the latter will navigate the life of current PFL broadcaster and MMA legend Randy Couture.