Going into the first few events for the Professional Fighters League, everybody was talking about the chance to win the $1 million grand prize.
The fledgling mixed martial arts promotion set up a regular season and playoff format in several divisions with the winner in each weight class walking away with a million dollar paycheck when it’s over.
The potential life changing money seemed to bring out the best from the fighters performing over the first three PFL shows, which set the stage for the next few cards that will ultimately determine the seeding for the playoff format.
“I think PFL 1 exciting. I think PFL 2 really exciting. I think PFL 3 even more exciting,” PFL president Carlos Silva told MMAWeekly. “At the beginning of season, I think we were all curious to see how it goes and I think the fighters responded. They said ‘I get it, I want to make the playoffs, I want to make $1 million and I want to put myself in the best position’ and I’ve seen it as a fan but I’ve also seen it as an executive here. I see something different in the fighters even in the second round, when they think ‘if I can get a finish, I can get some bonus points’.
“As a result we’ve gotten a super high 70-plus percent finishing rate and I think that’s exciting. I think the first round went better than expected.”
Because of the point system set up by PFL where finishes earn more points than just decision wins, the athletes have responded with some non-stop action bouts to ensure entry into the tournament where the prize will end up being that $1 million dollars.
The point system also puts numerous fighters in a precarious position going into these next few events because at least four athletes in each division will get cut and won’t even make it into the $1 million tournament.
That’s why Silva says the stakes are even higher going into these next few events because when the dust settles, only eight fighters will move forward into the tournament.
A perfect example would be former Strikeforce champion Jake Shields, who was undoubtedly one of the favorites going into the welterweight tournament this season. Unfortunately, Shields suffered an upset loss in the opening round to Ray Cooper, which means he’s got his back against the wall going into his next fight where it’s do or die to get a win or he’s out of the tournament completely.
“That’s the whole point of why this format is so exciting,” Silva said. “We’ve got a great talent in Ray Cooper and we’ve got a legend in Jake Shields and Jake’s got a great chance to get in. Jake can get a first or second or third round finish and get some bonus points and he’ll have a chance to get in. But I think that’s what’s so interesting about the regular season format, the points that you get for finishes and how then that cut line becomes so important.
“In every sport now there’s a cut line. Only certain teams make the playoffs in the NBA, the NHL, who’s going to make the cut in NASCAR. We’ve brought all of those elements and mixed it in with what we need to make it good and make it safe for the fighters. I’m looking forward to PFL 4, 5, 6 and 7 even more than PFL 1, 2 and 3.”
Silva has been ecstatic with the action that has unfolded through the first few PFL events and he expects the intensity to only get ratcheted up even more over these next few cards that kick off this Thursday night on the NBC Sports Network.
“You don’t want to leave it to chance. You want to get two wins so that you get in,” Silva said. “Because if you don’t get in, you don’t get a chance at the $1 million. Everybody is going to come out and especially the guys who need a win are going to come out on fire but even the guys who have a win and got 3 points or 4 points, they’ve got to get an impressive win to make sure they get that seeding.”