The Professional Fighters League begins its playoffs this Friday in Las Vegas. Those who emerge from the semifinals that night, and those who do the same the following two events, will meet for a million bucks. Those six championship bouts will take place on New Year's Eve at Madison Square Garden's Hulu Theater.
"We're excited to come back and continue the tradition on New Year's Eve," PFL chief executive Peter Murray said. "It's an ownable night in sports."
Tickets go on sale to the general public on Friday, and PFL newsletter subscribers are able to begin purchasing tickets on Thursday.
"We were approached by a number of different cities and venues, including others in New York, but we like being at 'The Mecca' and tied to MSG, and just a few blocks away from Times Square," Murray said. "Six belts will be raised before the ball drops."
Kayla Harrison, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo, headlines Friday's card as the women's lightweight division and the men's welterweight divisions compete in the PFL's playoffs. The men will have to fight twice and win twice in order to advance to the $1 million championship match. Only four women advanced to the playoffs, so there is only a semifinal round on Friday night. (The women's lightweight division, a first in mixed martial arts, began with eight fighters, where as men's divisions start with 12 in the regular season.)
"We saw it last year, and it was thrilling for fans, very intense night of fights," Murray said of the PFL's twice-in-one-night playoff format. "Fighters fighting two different opponents and having to win to get into the championship, to make their way to New York and MSG on New Year's Eve."
ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes will broadcast the championship night. The move from NBC Sports last year to the ESPN platforms this year has helped PFL grow its average audience per event by 46 percent, Murray said.
Freeport's Andre Harrison and Islip's Chris Wade both reached the semifinals last year and are back in the playoffs this year. Harrison and Wade will compete in the featherweight and lightweight playoffs, respectively, next week in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. The light heavyweights and heavyweights will fight on Halloween night at Mandalay Bay.
In its second year, the PFL has hosted seven of its first 17 events in its current format (regular season, playoffs, championship) in New York, including two at Hulu Theater and five at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum.
PFL 7 FIGHT CARD, FRIDAY
Women's lightweight semifinals
No. 1 Sarah Kaufman vs. No. 4 Larissa Pacheco
No. 2 Kayla Harrison vs. No. 3 Genah Fabian
Men's welterweight quarterfinals
No. 1 Glaico Franca vs. No. 8 Andre Fialho
No. 4 John Howard vs. No. 5 David Michaud
No. 3 Sadibou Sy vs. No. 6 Ray Cooper III
No. 2 Magomed Magomedkerimov vs. No. 7 Chris Curtis
Franco-Fialho winner vs. Howard-Michaud winner
Sy-Cooper winner vs. Magomedkerimov-Curtis winner
Other featured bouts
Welterweight: Jesse Ronson vs. Nikolay Aleksakhin
Featherweight: Brendan Loughnane vs. Matt Wagy
PFL 8 FIGHT CARD, THURSDAY, OCT. 17
No. 1 Lance Palmer vs. No. 8 Gadzhi Rabadanov
No. 4 Alex Gilpin vs. No. 5 Andre Harrison
No. 3 Luis Rafael Laurentino vs. No. 6 Jeremy Kennedy
No. 2 Movlid Khaybulaev vs. No. 7 Daniel Pineda
Palmer-Rabadanov winner vs. Gilpin-Harrison winner
Laurentino-Kennedy winner vs. Khaybulaev-Pineda winner
No. 1 Natan Schulte vs. No. 8 Ramsey Nijem
No. 4 Akhmed Aliev vs. No. 5 Rashid Magomedov
No. 3 Chris Wade vs. No. 6 Nate Andrews
No. 2 Islam Mamedov s. No. 7 Loik Radzhabov
Schulte-Nijem winner vs. Aliev-Magomedov winner
Wade-Andrews winner vs. Mamedov-Radzhabov winner
PFL 9 FIGHT CARD, THURSDAY, OCT. 31
No. 1 Denis Goltsov vs. No. 8 Satoshi Ishii
No. 4 Kelvin Tiller vs. No. 5 Ali Isaev
No. 3 Alex Nicholson vs. No. 6 Francimar Barroso
No. 2 Muhammed DeReese vs. No. 7 Jared Rosholt
Goltsov-Ishii winner vs. Tiller-Isaev winner
Nicholson-Barroso winner vs. DeReese-Rosholt winner
Light heavyweight quarterfinals
No. 1 Emiliano Sordi vs. No. 8 Sigi Pesaleli
No. 4 Bozigit Ataev vs. No. 5 Viktor Nemkov
No. 3 Vinny Magalhaes vs. No. 6 Rashid Yusupov
No. 2 Maxim Grishin vs. No. 7 Jordan Johnson
Sordi-Pesaleli winner vs. Ataev-Nemkov winner
Magalhaes-Yusupov winner vs. Grishin-Johnson winner