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The second round of the Professional Fighters League 2019 season kicks off with PFL 4 on Thursday at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The event features the women’s lightweight and men’s welterweight divisions, with Magomed Magomedkerimov-Chris Curtis in the headliner and Kayla Harrison-Morgan Frier in the co-feature. Further down the card sits welterweight division leader Sadibou Sy, who feels well-prepared ahead of his clash with Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Glaico Franca.
“I feel very good,” Sy told Sherdog.com. “The training gone has gone very well. I’m just fine-tuning some details, some reps like that, but the job is done.”
The Senegal native made an emphatic statement in the first event of the second PFL season, finishing David Michaud by way of technical knockout in just 17 seconds. Sy’s quick finish gave him six points in the PFL standings and awarded him the tiebreaker for the fastest finish to place him atop the 170-pound standings. Having originally competed in the middleweight division -- he advanced to the semifinals -- during the PFL’s inaugural 2018 campaign, Sy has had no problems dropping down a weight class.
“To be honest, it’s been easier than I expected. The thing is, my walk around weight is like a welterweight,” he said. “Before they said they were going to remove the middleweight division, my goal was to put on some weight so that I’m not small in terms of weight for the division. It worked out for the first fight of [Season 2] and was easier than I expected.”
Managing his weight has been a walk in the park compared to the issues Sy has faced with his vision. When he was about 12 years old, he had an eye infection that went untreated, and as a result, his eyesight rapidly deteriorated. Since then, he has undergone several unsuccessful eye surgeries to attempt to correct the problem, leaving Sy with about 40 percent of his vision.
“My problems started when I was like 12, and at the age of 13, I needed my first surgery,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of surgeries for my eyes. The problem isn’t my sight; the problem is I have an inflammation that they can’t get rid of, and when they caught [the problem], it was too late and it spread to both eyes.”
Even though his vision was compromised, Sy still managed to train and hone his martial arts craft, sometimes needing his coaches to guide him to the ring ahead of a bout because the lights were so bright that they essentially rendered him blind. Recently, however, new special corrective lenses have helped the welterweight contender increase his vision dramatically.
“I’m actually using lenses that allow for 80 percent eyesight in both eyes, so I went from 20-40 percent to 70-80 percent overnight,” Sy said. “I had this problem when I started martial arts, so to me, it was just normal. Now I can see the difference because I have something I can compare [it] to, but I’ve never seen it as an excuse or any handicap or something like that.”
The improved vision certainly appears to be aiding Sy in his efforts, as he now sits atop the welterweight standings for the 2019 PFL season and has put himself in prime position to make the playoffs later this year. Sy enjoys the promotion’s format and scoring system, as he sees merit as more important than marketability.
“To be honest I really like it, I really do,” he said. “It’s just like you win and you go through. There’s no politics, there’s no ‘Oh, he’s super popular.’ It’s all in your hands, and I appreciate that. As long as I know [the rules] before, I’m going to be good with it. I’m never going to be the guy that says, ‘Ah, I should get this opponent.’ No, this is what I signed up for. Everybody signed up for this, and it’s the same for everybody. I really do like that it’s all in your hands.”
Sy faces a formidable challenge. Franca finds himself on a seven-fight winning streak that includes six stoppages. Sy always aims for the finish but knows Franca will not go down easily, so he has prepared himself to go the distance in a war with the Brazilian.
“I see him as a really, really tough guy,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting in there and feeling the rhythm that he wants to fight in, the distance he wants to fight in. I don’t see him bringing anything that I haven’t seen before, but that doesn’t mean I’m taking him lightly. He’s a tough guy, and I know that when things go wrong [for him], he’s going to bite down and come at me. I’m looking forward to that actually.”
If Sy secures a victory of any kind, he will likely guarantee himself a spot in the PFL playoffs. In perhaps the promotion’s most stacked division, he has proven himself as a standout talent. While the 32-year-old views himself as the favorite to win the competition, for now he seems content to appreciate the process.
“Isn’t this fun, man? I mean, come on,” Sy said. “I’m living life, man, I’ll tell you that. I’m very serious in what I’m doing, don’t get me wrong, but still, if we’re not having fun along the way … I don’t want to complete this journey and say, ‘Man, I should have done this.’ No, I’m going to enjoy this.”