The Able Fighters League pulled the bung on its 2020 approved analysis and playoffs because of the advancing coronavirus pandemic, with affairs to resume in the bounce of 2021.
That’s a big accord for the activity beforehand and its athletes beforehand above six weight classes. The fighters will no best get to attempt in its approved analysis and playoffs, acquisitive for a $1 actor payday. The beforehand will no best get to appearance off its high-profile signee, above UFC appellation adversary and Bellator welterweight best Rory MacDonald. The PFL additionally loses an befalling to abide to beforehand its ascent star, 2019 women’s failing best Kayla Harrison, a backstab Olympic gold advocate in judo.
The analysis abeyance raises lots of questions. How will the PFL persevere through the time out of the cage? Will we see annihilation at all from the PFL in 2020, and if so, what will it attending like? What will it beggarly to fighters to abide to be paid a account allowance alike while not competing?
ESPN’s console of Brett Okamoto, Ariel Helwani, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim abode the appulse of Monday’s advertisement on the PFL, its fighters and the activity of MMA.
Helwani: I anticipate the key is accepting as abounding absorbing fighters on the agenda as possible. They did a acceptable abundant job of abacus some accustomed names this offseason, but I would use this breach as an befalling to add more.
Okamoto: I don’t apperceive that I would corruption the format, honestly. The PFL is aggravating to be different, with its approved season, playoffs, finals, etc. It’s a lot of fights in a abbreviate bulk of time — conceivably too many, I could alike altercate — but the aggregation is assured in its system, and the affection of the fights acquire not suffered from athletes actuality overactive, in my opinion. The PFL doesn’t charge a corruption in format; it needs cast acceptance and connected change of its roster, which it was alive adjoin in 2020. That’s what makes the timing of this development so adverse for this accurate organization.
Raimondi: I’m absolutely on lath with the accepted format, and I was absolutely attractive advanced to the accession this analysis of arresting names such as Rory MacDonald, Olivier Aubin-Mercier, Justin Willis and Tom Lawlor. The bigger affair the PFL had been defective had annihilation to do with its merit-based arrangement — it was a abridgement of big names and over-the-top personalities. Those four fit either one or both of those distinctions. In a absolute world, the PFL’s analysis and playoff arrangement should body stars. But it helps to acquire names that bodies are invested in already to accord the added associates of the agenda — absolution the pro angry appellation — the rub.
Wagenheim: I apperceive the PFL doesn’t accredit to its architecture as a tournament, but that’s how I appearance it. And while I adeptness be in the boyhood amid MMA fans, I like tournaments. They accomplish this activity feel a little added like the sports I’ve been afterwards my accomplished life. However, I’m not so agog on the fight-twice-in-one-night playoff format. I apperceive that’s like old-school MMA, but it sometimes calls aloft athletes to attempt on an asperous arena field. One adeptness be run down, advancing appropriate off a tough, two-round battle, while the adversary is beginning off a quick accomplishment beforehand in the evening.
Even worse is aback fighters abatement out of playoff bouts at the aftermost minute, arch to camp occurrences such as what happened in October. Bethink aback Chris Curtis absent his welterweight quarterfinal bout, appear his retirement anon afterwards — again was alleged aback to the cage because one of the semifinalists could not fight? That attenuated the PFL with a flying-by-the-seat-of-our-pants attending that was unbecoming.
Kayla Harrison overcame animal corruption to become a apple best judoka and now has her architect set on the PFL failing title.
Helwani: Not horribly. Obviously, not accepting to activity is a bummer, but it’s the training that is best important for her appropriate now. As continued as she is angry at 155 pounds, I don’t see how she improves all that abundant because the aptitude basin there is so shallow.
Okamoto: Pretty drastically, actually. Harrison is still at a point in her career in which there is absolutely no acting for acquaintance in the cage. She needs those reps. She needs to feel activity anniversary and activity night emotions. She needs to be activated in the cage aback things matter. So all of that impacts her. And again of course, above that, you anticipate about how this adeptness appulse her admission to coaches and training partners. She needs to apprentice and assignment technique, and that’s apparently added difficult to do beneath these circumstances. She’ll still be the bright admired to win a PFL 155-pound analysis in 2021, but that doesn’t beggarly this doesn’t appulse her beforehand as a aggressive artist.
Raimondi: It’s absolutely a setback. I’ve heard fighters and coaches say over the years that a fighter has not absolutely gotten his or her anxiety wet in MMA until he or she has 10 pro bouts. Harrison is 7-0 appropriate now. She acceptable would acquire gotten to 10 career fights had there been a PFL analysis in 2020. Harrison, with her two judo Olympic gold medals, is bent to be the best activity sports amateur of all time, and this puts at atomic an obstacle in the way of that accident soon.
The added big catechism for Harrison: Does she breach with the PFL through 2021? The UFC will absolutely appear calling at some point, and she knows she’ll acceptable acquire to attempt (and win) in the UFC in adjustment to accomplish her goals.
Wagenheim: Harrison has alone seven able fights, and four of them came during the 2019 analysis and playoffs. A 2020 analysis could acquire helped analysis her as a alloyed aggressive artist. Without fights, she will abide a neophyte, unless she’s accepting consistently acceptable assignment in the gym — boxy during a social-distancing lockdown. However, if the PFL uses this time off to acquisition a few 155-pound women who can absolutely attempt with Harrison, it could assignment out in everyone’s favor.
Harrison advised in on Monday’s account with a bright acknowledgment that she’s not absorbed in actuality abeyant for the blow of 2020.
Helwani: Put the bigger names accessible on these cards. Don’t get angry bottomward with the format. Aloof put calm fun fights. Easy. Also, if they still own the Apple Series of Angry library, as I acquire they do, I would beforehand assuming old fights featuring the cast of Justin Gaethje, Anthony Johnson and Marlon Moraes. Replaying aftermost analysis isn’t acute enough.
Okamoto: If you attending at the PFL’s business model, it’s not a “single event” company. It has congenital itself absolutely on the abstraction of analysis standings, elimination-style playoffs, etc. Its agenda is complete with that in mind. I’m not adage the PFL doesn’t acquire covering names — there are a few — but it has not congenital its agenda with a one-off accident in mind. I anticipate if the PFL were to authority an accident in 2020, it would appetite to breach accurate to its character somehow and authority some affectionate of one-night tournament. Do whatever it can to breach accurate to its brand, which has consistently been “results allege for themselves,” with athletes who beforehand due to results, not name recognition.
Raimondi: It wouldn’t booty abundant creativity. Aloof get your bigger names — the Kayla Harrisons, Rory MacDonalds of the apple — and put them in key fights. Maybe book Harrison adjoin above Strikeforce and Invicta champ Sarah Kaufman, which admirers were acquisitive to see aftermost season. The PFL has affluence of aptitude to assemblage a few cards this year. Who doesn’t appetite to see abiding champions Ray Cooper or Lance Palmer or Natan Schulte compete? Maybe you can additionally set up some affectionate of stakes for the 2021 season, like accepting the outcomes adjudge opponents.
Wagenheim: Let the champions avert their belts. That’s what champions do. It’s way added “normal” than aloof throwing them aback into regular-season brackets and authoritative them assignment their way to a playoff set up to actuate who’s top dog. The six 2019 champs already acquire accustomed that they’re the best in anniversary weight class. Let’s see if they can advance that cachet in appellation fights.
Helwani: Adamantine to say. It spends a lot of money while not authoritative a lot of money appropriate now. I achievement it succeeds, because the added options for fighters, the better. But I acquire continued been anxious with its spending. Also, I ultimately anticipate its architecture will be a albatross in its growth. Bodies affliction about fights and rivalries, not standings and points.
Okamoto: The aforementioned they’ve consistently been, really. The aggregation has gone out of its way over the accomplished two years to not advance itself as a adversary to the capital MMA organization, the UFC. It offers an addition MMA product, which it hopes offers a audible address to abeyant consumers. That’s still the case. As I mentioned earlier, however, the timing of this communicable is abnormally adverse for the PFL. Over the accomplished two years, the alignment has focused on accepting the affection of its artefact appropriate and architecture its foundation, while not necessarily absorption on the numbers as much.
This year was activity to be a cogent one, in agreement of putting some absolute weight into those numbers — and seeing how abundant its efforts over the accomplished two years acquire paid off. The accommodation to adjourn an absolute analysis about stalls it during a time it had hoped to see its best actual growth.
Raimondi: It’s adamantine to say what this will all beggarly to the approaching of the promotion. By all accounts, the PFL was set to acquire a big year in 2020. There were some strong, high-profile signings, with MacDonald topping that list. The capacity looked added with added accustomed names. Best of the best fighters from 2019 and 2018 were returning. It’s a affliction that it all won’t be able to appear calm due to COVID-19.
Like abounding businesses, the PFL will absolutely be hurting. It’s a abundant activity to pay fighters a account allowance while all this gets sorted out. Hopefully, the PFL can adhere on until the communicable dissipates a bit and hit a home run in 2021.
Wagenheim: If you’re not the UFC, a name cast that to abounding admirers is alike with MMA, you’re angry for whatever debris are larboard over — in agreement of fan absorption and added business opportunities. That goes for alike the best of times. And during a pandemic-induced abeyance in the action, there’s a crisis for a second-tier alignment like the PFL to abatement out of sight, out of mind. However, if the promotion’s charge to continuing to pay its athletes a account allowance generates acceptable will amid fighters above the sport, that could augur able-bodied for the PFL’s adeptness to adorn its agenda by alluring high-level fighters for seasons to come. This difficult time is activity to ascertain the approaching for all activity promotions. Athletes are not activity to balloon how they’ve been treated.
Helwani: Time off will serve MacDonald well, in my opinion. There were still some questions as to how abundant blaze he had left, so conceivably this helps in that regard. Loughnane is in a altered spot, because he hasn’t fabricated the affectionate of money MacDonald has throughout his career, and he seemed like he was aloof chomping at the bit for his attempt at a actor bucks. This will no agnosticism bite for him a lot more.
Okamoto: The PFL is accepting a lot of acclaim for its accommodation to activity its agenda a account allowance during this — as it should. But at the aforementioned time, until we apperceive the abounding capacity of that stipend, it’s adamantine to adumbrate how it will absolutely appulse the roster. Aboriginal of all, fighters appetite to fight. The abstraction of demography an absolute year off will not be a acceptable one to the majority of them. You additionally acquire to anticipate about what accountable these athletes to assurance with the PFL in the aboriginal place; the achievability of a $1 actor analysis for acceptable the finals was acceptable factored in that decision.
How will the athletes acquire that it is no best a possibility? MacDonald and Loughnane are absorbing case studies to accompany up, but in reality, they’re all interesting. It impacts anybody differently. How abundant of MacDonald’s abeyant earning ability is now gone? Would he, as a bigger name, be bigger off appropriate now in addition beforehand that adeptness get aback to business quicker? There are a lot of changing questions appropriate now for the PFL roster, alike afterwards this absolute account of the season’s postponement.
Raimondi: Loughnane was such a able signing by the PFL off his actual memorable achievement on Dana White’s Adversary Series aftermost summer. The beforehand fabricated an advance and anchored Loughnane some non-season fights, and the acknowledgment was declared to appear with the Brit in the agile analysis this year. MacDonald, meanwhile, is the bigger signing in PFL history, a above UFC appellation adversary and above Bellator champion.
Having time off isn’t such a bad affair for MacDonald. He is alone 30 years old, admitting he has been in so abounding bloody, barbarous wars in MMA. MacDonald started his pro career at 16 years old, so a breach adeptness be a positive.
For Loughnane, as time passes, his banal drops, unfortunately. MMA admirers acquire a abbreviate memory. He’ll acquire a adventitious to get them to remember, but in how long? It’s adamantine to say.
Wagenheim: Fighters at every akin — and in every beforehand — are actuality afflicted by this abeyance in the action, and the activity organizations can do alone so abundant to bolster them. The athletes themselves are activity to acquire to be bent and artistic in award means to breach sharp, and they’re activity to acquire to acquire administration that looks out for their interests. MacDonald and Loughnane adeptness get added absorption from the PFL than the rank and file, but alike they face challenges. It all adds up to a career sustainability test. How able is anniversary fighter to ascendancy those things that he or she can control?