Andre Harrison

After taking a brief sabbatical to regroup and rebrand, the MMA promotion now known as Professional Fighters League (PFL) will make millionaires of six different fighters by year’s end.

Formerly known as World Series of Fighting (WSOF), PFL officials have developed a league system for a sport that has generally existed as a series of one-off events and will award $10 million in prize money to athletes involved in the playoffs for the company’s inaugural 2018 season.

“We are so excited to launch our inaugural season, and we’re going to do that in New York, in primetime,” PFL CEO Peter Murray told MMAjunkie. “With our partners NBC Sports and Facebook, we have the ability to own Thursday nights and present the sport and PFL around the world to up to 300 million fans. To be part of an organization that is the first to present MMA as a true sport with individual fighters competing in a regular season, advancing to the playoffs, and a season-ending $10 million championship is an incredible opportunity.”

PFL plans call for 12 fighters each in the featherweight, lightweight, welterweight, middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions to compete in two “regular season” contests, with fighters earning points based on the results of their bouts and the method of victory. From there, the top eight fighters in each division are paired together for a single-elimination tournament that sees each bracket winner crowned season champion and awarded a $1 million prize.

“We believe the format is built to win and built to last,” Murray said. “Obviously, it’s a format that has worked in other sports, and we absolutely believe it will work in MMA and is a compliment to other formats and promotions, so we’re confident in the format long-term.”

The $1 million prizes will be among the richest paydays in MMA, matched only by the highest earners in the sport’s leading promotion, the UFC. At March’s UFC 222 event, the most recent fight card for the promotion that featured publicly disclosed paydays, UFC women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg took home $500,000.

PFL’s 2018 season roster includes a mix of both proven veterans and up-and-coming prospects from around the globe, including former WSOF champions Andre Harrison, Lance Palmer and Smealinho Rama, as well as big-show veterans Will Brooks, Brian Foster, Marcos Galvao, John Howard, Shawn Jordan, Mike Kyle, Vinny Magalhaes, Ramsey Nijem, Jake Shields, Rick Story and Thiago Tavares, among others.

PFL isn’t the first organization to present a league format on a broad scale. But the most notable previous effort, International Fight League, elected to take a team-based approach to the concept and ultimately shut down after a two-year run.

Despite the ambitious financial payouts planned, PFL officials believe the promotion will prove fiscally viable.

“It’s absolutely sustainable, and we think it’s what the sport needs,” PFL President Carlos Silva said. “So far, the feedback we’ve gotten from the fighters is that they’re excited. That’s why we have ‘fighters’ in our name. We think we’re putting the right team and format together for fighters to create a great product.”

PFL kicks off a seven-week regular season run on Thursday, June 7, at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York. Facebook streams exclusive pre- and post-event coverage, in addition to a handful of fights. NBCSN airs each night’s featured contests in a live, two-hour broadcast.

After the conclusion of the regular season, playoffs will culminate in a season-ending event in New York where champions are crowned and checks are issued.

“It’s going to be great for fans,” Murray said. “Great fighters, great fights, and an incredible experience and journey throughout the season and what a true sports format brings to the sport of MMA.”

PFL 2018 schedule

PFL 2018 playoffs pay structure

  • Playoff champions: $1 million
  • Playoff runners-up: $200,000
  • Playoff semifinal losers: $100,000
  • Playoff quarterfinal losers: $50,000

Additional notes

* PFL’s inaugural season kicks off on Thursday, June 7, at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York. There will be seven weeks of “regular season” competition, with each fighter guaranteed two fights. These two fights are compensated with traditional “show” and “win” contracts, with each fighter negotiating their own deal, just like traditional MMA pay structure.

* For the two regular season fights, which are three-round contests, athletes are awarded 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw. Additionally, fighters get 3 bonus points for a first-round finish, 2 bonus points for a second-round finish and 1 bonus point for a third-round finish. After everyone fights twice, the top eight fighters advance to a single elimination playoff system.

* A series of tiebreakers exist to secure the seeds, but head-to-head result is the first such qualifier.

* In the playoffs, the quarterfinals and semifinals will be contested on the same night in October. The quarterfinals are two-round contests, while the semifinals are three-round contests. Ties will not be allowed, nor will overtime rounds, and PFL officials are currently working with the planned host commissions to ensure judges can determine a winner, if needed.

* Finalists come back for a year-end event in December, where six champions will be crowned, each in a five-round contest.

* Each event airs live on a combination of Facebook and NBCSN. Facebook has a pre-fight show and the first few fights, then NBCSN has a two-hour window before the action returns to Facebook for a post-fight show.

In the pages that follow, check out our exclusive roster reveal of the six divisions.