The inaugural season of the Professional Fighters League will include two events at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum this summer.
Those two regular-season events will take place July 19 and Aug. 2.
PFL, formerly World Series of Fighting, is attempting a different take on mixed martial arts in 2018. It will follow a more traditional sports schedule, with a regular season, playoffs and a championship round. The seven-event regular season begins June 7 at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden and runs through the end of August.
“Fans understand a regular season, a playoff and a championship,” PFL president Carlos Silva told Newsday on Monday. “Fans understand that if you win, you advance.”
Hosting back-to-back events at the Coliseum was by design, Silva said, adding that he hopes to establish a “mini-residency” at the venues.
The Coliseum hosted its first MMA event last summer with UFC on Fox, headlined by Chris Weidman. That fight card featured six Long Island-based fighters, including PFL lightweight Chris Wade.
“With the format in the regular season, each event is a different stop during the regular season,” Silva said. “So we thought it would be smart to continue to talk to the fans in the market and help them understand the journey of the regular season and the playoffs.”
Each fighter will compete twice during the regular season. A point system will determine the standings. A win is worth three points, with bonus points awarded for finishes based on the round (three points for a first-round stoppage, two points for the second round, one point for the third round).
The point structure figures to force the action in fights, especially in the second bout as fighters study the standings and see what’s needed to advance or move up a spot.
“I’m shooting for 12 points, I want the 1-seed” said Chris Wade, a lightweight from Islip. “Why would you want to play it any other way? I’ll be pushing for someone to make a mistake early and put him away.”
A tiebreaker system will be used to determine the final eight. Silva said there’s a six-step tiebreaker system, beginning with head-to-head results. The top eight fighters (out of 12) in each weight class advance to the playoffs. To reach the Dec. 31 championship bout and have a share of the $10 million prize pool, a fighter must win two bouts in one night.
The first event of the regular season will feature featherweights and heavyweights, including Freeport’s Andre Harrison (17-0), a four-promotion champion at 145 pounds.
“It definitely makes it feel real,” Harrison said about Monday’s announcement of the PFL schedule and roster. “When I’m training in between fights, I’m still doing all the things I’m doing now. The only difference now is I have a person in mind, a target in sight.”
Harrison will face Jumabieke Tuerxun in the first event June 7.
“I’m looking to go out and make a statement,” Harrison said. “At the end of the day, I’ve done some pretty cool things in the past, won some titles. . . . We all fight for the glory, but you fight for money. I’m here to win it. I want everybody to know it’s OK to be in second place.”
The second event will feature lightweights and light heavyweights on June 21, and welterweights and middleweights will be showcased in the third event on July 5.
Wade (12-3, 5-2 UFC) will fight in the second event in Chicago on June 21.
“This to me is a system that needs to find success being implemented across MMA,” Wade said of the PFL’s innovative format. “Who the heck wants to continuously watch a sport where there’s no rhyme or reason to who the champion is? Every other sport that I’m into, there’s a regular season that ends with a champion.”
Silva said the plan is to keep that same weight class order throughout the regular season, but he does understand that injuries and state athletic commissions also play a role in that. So, that second round of scheduled fights is spread out over four events instead of three.
“It gives the regular season some flexiblity,” Silva said. “It gives the fighters a little flexibility, too.”
One key difference with these PFL fights compared with most other MMA fights: No elbows are allowed in any PFL fight. That helps keep the fighters healthy and minimize lengthy recoveries or medical suspensions by the commissions during the season. No elbows will be allowed in the Dec. 31 championship fights, either.
“We felt like if everyone is training and operating that way across their first, their second, their quarterfinal and their semifinal fight, we’d just keep the rule consistent,” Silva said.
Wade’s second fight would line up for Aug. 2 at the Coliseum, assuming he and his opponent are injury free. Wade’s last bout was last summer on the UFC Long Island card at his hometown arena.
“That was the time of my life, fighting wise,” Wade said. “I’m driving in on the Southern State, listening to the radio on my way to my fight. It was amazing. Honking at people because I gotta get to my fight.”
The PFL’s regular season will air live on Thursdays on NBC Sports Network as both brands look to establish “MMA Night in America.” Six of the seven events are scheduled for East Coast venues, a designed plan, Silva said.
“We’re excited about NBC and Facebook going Thursday nights during the regular season, really sort of creating the ‘MMA Night’ around the world on both of the platforms,” Silva said. “With it being Thursday night, in a mostly 9 p.m. time slot, we thought it would be best to be on the East for that slot and then we’ll go out west for the playoffs where we switch to Saturdays.”
PFL 2018 schedule
June 7: Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, NYC
June 21: Chicago Theater, Chicago, Ill.
July 5: GWU Smith Center, Washington, D.C.
July 19: Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale
Aug. 2: Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale
Aug. 16: Ocean Resort Casino, Atlantic City, N.J.
Aug. 30: Ocean Resort Casino, Atlantic City, N.J.
Oct. 5: Playoff Event (Venue and city TBA)
Oct. 13: Playoff Event (Venue and city TBA)
Oct. 20: Playoff Event (Venue and city TBA)
Dec. 31: Championship Event (Venue and city TBA)
Featherweight (145 lbs.)
Lightweight (155 lbs.)
Welterweight (170 lbs.)
Middleweight (185 lbs.)
Light Heavyweight (205 lbs.)
Heavyweight (265 lbs.)