PFL 3 Preview: Kayla Harrison returns to defend her crown

MMA, PFL

Tomorrow night the PFL returns for their third event of the 2022 season. Featured tomorrow night will be the women’s lightweights and the welterweights. However, there is on lightweight fight on the main card on ESPN2.

In the main event of the evening, Kayla Harrison (12-0) is back as she looks to win her third PFL championship in a row. Standing in her way in this opening round contest is Marina Mokhnatkina (6-2).

The Russian fought once in PFL last year picking up a decision win. Prior to that, she fought twice in Bellator, but she’s going to have the toughest fight of her career tomorrow night in fighting Kayla Harrison.

Kayla Harrison might be the best female fighter on the planet. She became a free agent after winning the PFL championship last year and the promotion pulled out all the stops to keep her. Now, she’s back and she’s a huge favorite to win the lightweight championship again.

PFL 3 Preview

Another defending PFL champion is in the co-main event and that’s defending welterweight champion Ray Cooper III (24-7-1). Cooper was sensational last year in capturing his second consecutive PFL championship.

Like Harrison, Cooper is looking for his third straight season title and he kicks off tomorrow against Carlos Leal (16-3). Leal comes into PFL 3 riding an impressive 10-fight winning streak. The last two wins have come this year in the PFL challenger series. He’s poised to give Cooper a challenge tomorrow night.

Former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis (24-12) will also be making his season debut tomorrow in the lightweight division. After his first fight got pushed back, Showtime returns as he takes on Ireland’s Myles Price (11-7).

Pettis was a huge signing for PFL but failed to live up to expectations in 2021. The former UFC champ went 0-2 in his lone two fights last year. Now, he’s more focused than ever as he looks to make a statement in the lightweight division.

Also on the card is Rory MacDonald (22-8-1). Like Pettis, MacDonald had an underwhelming first season with PFL going 1-2 in three fights. He takes on Brett Cooper (28-15) tomorrow night as he looks to redeem himself.

After signing with PFL and making her debut last year, Julia Budd (16-3) is on the card tomorrow taking on Genah Fabian (4-2). Budd is a former Bellator champion and she’s expected to give Harrison the biggest challenge this year.

The rest of the PFL 3 card can be viewed in the tweet below.

PFL announces welterweight and women’s lightweight season opener

MMA, PFL

The PFL announced today their third event of the 2022 season which will feature the kickoff for women’s lightweight and welterweight. The event will take place on May 6th on ESPN.

In the main event, PFL superstar Kayla Harrison (12-0) will start her quest for a third straight season championship. In her season debut she will be taking on Russia’s Marina Mokhnatkina (6-2).

Harrison was the biggest story over the past few months in terms of MMA free agency. At one point, it appeared that Harrison was destined to go to a new home, however, the PFL came forward with an offer that she couldn’t turn down.

Now, she will begin the quest for a third championship. Mokhnatkina will be making her second appearance with the promotion after debuting last August. She’s coming off of two straight wins as she enters this lightweight contest against Harrison.

Rest of PFL 3

Another noteworthy fight in the women’s lightweight division features the PFL season debut for Julia Budd (16-3). The former Bellator featherweight champion will be taking on Genah Fabian (4-2).

Fabian went 2-1 last season with the lone loss coming against Kayla Harrison. Many are already anticipating a lightweight finale this year featuring Harrison and the former Bellator champion.

In terms of the welterweights, Ray Cooper (24-7-1). will be looking to capture his third PFL championship and he will debut this year against the undefeated Magomed Umalatov (11-0). Cooper is coming off a sensational season that was capped off with his knockout win over Magomed Magomedkerimov.

Umalatov will be making the walk for the third time with the PFL. He won two fights in 2021 which included a knockout over Kyron Bowen. Rory MacDonald (22-8-1) is also on the card on May 6th as he takes on Brett Cooper (28-15).

Worth noting that the lightweight contest between Anthony Pettis and Myles Price has also been moved to this PFL 3 card. You can see the full card in the tweet below.

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.