The first Professional Fighters League event happens Thursday night at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. But first, let’s look ahead.
The PFL’s new format consists of a regular season with a points standings system, playoffs and a championship. It will have some fighters doing math in between training sessions as they figure out how to qualify for the postseason and their shot at that $1 million prize.
A win is worth three points, with additional bonus points added for a stoppage based on the round. A first-round stoppage by any means — knockout, submission, DQ, injury, etc. — is worth three bonus points. A second-round stoppage is worth two, and a third-round stoppage is worth one. A loss is worth zero points. A draw is worth one point. The maximum points a fighter can earn in the regular season is 12.
“It encourages finishes,” said PFL heavyweight Jake Heun, who faces Alex Nicholson on Thursday night. “Nobody wants to come out here and see a bunch of dudes belly button humping for 15 minutes. People want to see fights finished and I think it’s going to lead to that.”
The PFL’s regular season consists of two matches for each fighter. The top eight fighters in the standings for each of the six weight classes advance to the playoffs.
“How do I think about my second match of the regular season?” PFL president Carlos Silva said. “I want to make the playoffs. If you don’t make the playoffs, you can’t win a million dollars. So, everyone’s going to be thinking about strategies and tactics so they can get the wins.”
Andre Harrison, an undefeated featherweight from Freeport, kept his strategy very simple heading into Thursday’s bout against Jumabieke Tuerxon.
“I try not to really think too much about the points,” undefeated Freeport featherweight Andre Harrison said. “At the end of the day, if I win, I’m going to be all right.”
For those fighters who start off the season 0-1, though, looking at the standings may spark a few to take chances they may not otherwise take just to potentially earn more points and leapfrog the others in their division.
“I don’t think they’ll solely be dependant on that, but I think there will be a bigger sense of urgency if they lose their first fight,” said PFL featherweight Lance Palmer, who faces Bekbulat Magomedov on Thursday.
“It’s going to affect the way guys fight a little bit,” Heun said, “because you get those win points if you get an early finish.”
The success of the PFL in carving out its nook in the MMA landscape begins with good fights that garner excitement in the arena and for those watching on broadcast partners NBC Sports Network and Facebook Watch.
That must continue beyond the “first screen” and move into social media for PFL to sustain longer-term awareness and consumption from MMA followers.
“Success for me is that social media and the buzz around their path to their second fight of the regular season,” Silva said, “because if I’m a Lance Palmer fan, or an Andre Harrison fan, I want to follow them and make sure they get into the playoffs because I want them to win the million dollars.
“If we see that here at the PFL, we’ll know that we’ve got a format that fans are going to embrace, the same way you follow your favorite team, your favorite NASCAR driver, your favorite golfer, your favorite tennis player.”