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The Professional Fighters League is making game changing alterations to its 2021 season.
The tournament-based league released a video on Thursday narrated by newly announced Athlete Advisory Board member Ray Lewis. In the video, it showed off several high-profile acquisitions including Anthony Pettis and Rory MacDonald, and formally stated when its first event – April 23 is the date – will take place. All of these events will be held on ESPN2, with prelims and additional coverage on ESPN+. The PFL’s campaign this year is called “More Than A Fight,” and more videos and packages will follow.
That was not the only bit of information to come from the PFL on Thursday, however, as broadcast partner ESPN made public a few significant differences to the 2021 season. In an effort to stifle the issues with weight cutting, as multiple combatants came in over their divisional limits in 2019, the PFL is cracking down on weight offenders.
The previous rule in place was that fighters that missed weight could not earn playoff points, even if they won their bouts. This prevented Ronny Markes and Efrain Escudero from winning points when they finished Sigi Pesaleli and Jason High, respectively. The penalty will be even stiffer now, as a single playoff point will be deducted should a fighter miss weight. This point removal will add to the measure where heavy fighters cannot earn points in the regular season. The league did not address how it would handle fighters that miss weight in the playoffs.
Additionally, a substantial change is coming to the playoff system itself. Past seasons forced fighters to compete twice in one night to qualify for the finals, with a two-round quarterfinal and a three-round semifinal that evening. The two-round bouts produced over a dozen draws the last two years, and they will be removed altogether. Instead, the PFL will cut down on the number of playoff participants, where only four fighters per division will qualify to compete for the $1 million prize. This was already set for the women’s lightweight division due to the smaller number of fighters on its roster, and it will be the same for all male divisions going forward.
Like the 2019 season, the PFL will run 10 events this year. Six previously announced regular season events will begin on April 23 and carry on through May, before fighters receive a break and resume the season on June 10. Three unannounced events will contain the playoffs, which will hold semifinal bouts as there will no longer be quarterfinals. One final card on New Year’s Eve will decide the six million-dollar victors.