The PFL is making moves after being on the shelf during the COVID-19 pandemic.
PFL began in 2018 after making the transition from the World Series of Fighting days. The idea has been to be presented as an MMA league with seasons and playoffs rather than a promotion. While the PFL was able to crown world champions and million-dollar winners in 2018 and 2019, the same could not be said for 2020.
Once the COVID-19 pandemic began to take effect, the executives at PFL made the decision to postpone the 2020 season. The good news is, PFL has announced its return for 2021. The season will begin on April 23. The regular season will end on June 25 and playoff dates will be announced down the line.
FIGHT SPORTS spoke to PFL President Ray Sefo, who expressed his joy in the upcoming return of PFL.
“I can’t wait. Likewise for our whole staff members. Everybody’s excited to kick the season off again in 2021. Obviously, the world is dealing with this pandemic and it’s been a while but yeah we’re definitely looking forward to having the season come back.”
Decision To Postpone 2020 Season
Sefo admitted that PFL executives had the same level of uncertainty that everyone else did at the beginning of the pandemic. The PFL President and combat sports legend expressed his belief that the decision to postpone the 2020 season was the right call.
“Definitely. Myself, our CEO Peter Murray, Jim Bramson, and a few of the other executives talked and it came down to a team decision in terms of postponing the season, because right after that point we really didn’t know what was happening. We didn’t have any idea of what was going on, and then suddenly there was a shutdown. And of course, prior to that, we were hearing shutdowns throughout the world. Once there was a shutdown initiated here in the U.S. we just thought it was the right thing to do for the safety of our staff members, of course, our fighters.
“We were just kind of waiting to see what happened, and then I believe by April, I think the UFC were talking about having a show. And then no longer after that, that got canceled and so we knew it was the right decision to postpone the season.”
Will PFL Run Shows At Reduced Capacity?
As time has passed, we’ve been seeing more combat sports events allow fans in attendance at a reduced capacity. Gervonta Davis vs. Leo Santa Cruz at the Alamodome comes to mind. Errol Spence Jr. vs. Danny Garcia and Canelo Alvarez vs. Callum Smith will be held inside AT&T Stadium and the Alamodome, respectively, with fans as well.
The question is, will the PFL follow suit? At this time, Sefo thinks it’s best to play it by ear.
“I think right now honestly, I’m thinking because it’s our first season back in 2021, I’m thinking that the case may be that we just cater for TV and pretty much like what Bellator and UFC are doing right now. We’ll see but right now, I’m not sure if you’re aware, but the spike in cases is rising especially coming into winter. So hopefully by the time we start, the situation with COVID-19 has slowed down. I guess right now we just have to play it by ear because we really don’t know what tomorrow brings, and so we gotta just play it day-by-day.”
The Signing Of Fabricio Werdum
When the PFL announced the signing of Fabricio Werdum, it came as a bit of a surprise. Many felt “Vai Cavalo” was Bellator bound. Werdum had constantly discussed a potential rematch with Fedor Emelianenko. Instead, Werdum will now call the PFL his home.
Sefo explained why signing Werdum now made sense.
“When you look at Fabricio’s record and his history, I mean he’s fought everybody and anybody. And when you look at his resume, it speaks for itself. He was the first guy to ever beat Fedor Emelianenko, he’s beaten so many former champions, not only UFC but elsewhere. He was a Strikeforce champion, he was a UFC champion. When we started talking to his manager and his manager was saying that he was really looking for something else and to also get him excited and whatnot and continue fighting, one of my questions to his manager was how well does he feel? In terms of now that he’s 43 years old and how many years does he have left, and Werdum’s answer was, ‘we’ve got four to five good years left in the ring.’ So I’m like, ‘okay let’s do something.'”
While the signing came as a surprise to some, Sefo never felt that Werdum was out of reach.
“I knew that they were talking to a few others, Bellator and ONE FC I believe, and I think more. But once the conversation started happening, I was really confident that we could get it done. I wanna say within a couple of weeks it was done. Obviously a massive thank you to Pete Murray, our CEO, and my team, and of course Ali Abdelaziz and Fabricio Werdum because we were able to sit down and go over what needed to be done and within weeks we had the deal done. It was kind of a smooth scenario and we were really happy with that.”
Is There Any Interest In Anderson Silva?
Another Brazilian legend has recently become available on the market. Anderson Silva was released by the UFC after suffering a fourth-round TKO loss to Uriah Hall. Sefo heaped praise on “The Spider” but he hopes the future UFC Hall of Famer hangs up his gloves.
“Listen, I mean that guy is such a legend in the sport but isn’t he around 46? The guy is such an amazing talent. I think he has been a great champion. He’s definitely gonna go down in history as one of the best to ever do it. Nothing but a lot of respect but I just think it’s that time to hang it up. Watching his last fight, he also fought a former teammate of mine, and Uriah Hall was able to finish that fight. Anderson Silva is a legend and he’s gonna go down in history as one of the best to do it, so I’d like to remember him as that guy.”
Allowing Kayla Harrison To Fight In Invicta FC
Kayla Harrison was allowed to compete in Invicta FC’s featherweight division on November 20. Harrison is considered to be a top star for the PFL and Sefo ensured that her request to stay active was granted.
“She’s a very talented young lady and she wanted to at least get one [fight] in before the season starts next year. The team and I talked, we talked to her manager and we talked to Shannon [Knapp] over in Invicta. It was good to see that she was able to get that kind of opportunity to compete at least once this year and get her ready for the 2021 season. And of course, Shannon doesn’t have a 155 division so 145 is where it was. According to some of our staff members, she made the weight quite easily.”
Sefo had predicted an easy win for Harrison over Courtney King. Perhaps even he got more than he bargained for. Harrison ran through King for the brutal second-round TKO finish.
Will The Real Rory MacDonald Please Stand Up?
Fight fans have been wondering about the current state of Rory MacDonald. While the former Bellator Welterweight Champion is a big name for the PFL, some question whether or not “Red King” still has the killer instinct to compete. Sefo isn’t worried about MacDonald’s past comments about losing that itch.
“It’s one of those things where sometimes fighters will make certain comments right after a fight and there’s so much emotions that’s involved with fighting. There’s so much involved in terms of getting ready for a fight, on fight day, after the fight. Yeah, he’s made some comments about maybe he doesn’t have the hunger anymore or whatever, but we’ve seen him fight after that. Listen, there’s no doubt in my mind as we all know, that Rory MacDonald is a beast when he’s on. The skills that he has, it doesn’t matter what he said, he’s still gonna have the same skills.
“I think the PFL also excites him. A different challenge and as fighters when there’s a challenge involved, you’re always coming to turn up and perform. He hasn’t fought for us yet so it’s something new. I’m excited for Rory to debut when the season starts and I think we’re gonna see the best of Rory to come for the 2021 PFL season.”
Closing Thoughts From Ray Sefo
Sefo ended the interview by promising fight fans that they’ll be in for a treat with the PFL’s 2021 season.
“Thank you for having me and again, 2021 PFL is gonna come out with a big season. So tune in on ESPN and ESPN+, and I’m pretty sure that our fighters are gonna come out and perform and give the fans a show.”