Barnett? Cyborg? Who will be the next group of fighters to sign with the PFL for 2019 and beyond?
Free agents and disgruntled employees could end up making their way to the PFL, just in time for season two.
After a successful first season, the Professional Fighters League is ready for round two. Some of the best fighters in the world will be looking to once again try and win gold and $1 million. We know some stars that will be back, including Kayla Harrison and the championship winners of PFL 11. What new blood will be joining the league?
The fact that the PFL offers more opportunities in its short existence compared to competing organizations might entice fighters to sign up. Is it possible for big names to make their way to the tournament of champions? Who among the elite would the PFL want to try and grab? There may just be some enticing names out there.
Here are just a few stars that could end up fighting for the PFL, whether now or down the line.
Let’s start with the fact that Leslie Smith was let go by the UFC for basically speaking her mind. Once Aspen Ladd couldn’t make weight for a bout, Smith refused to fight under a different weight class. One of the leaders of Project Spearhead, the writing was on the wall.
On a two-fight win streak before her release, Smith (10-7-1) would do pretty well under the PFL system. With five wins via knockout, anything is possible. When I asked about a Smith signing, Carlos Silva stated it would be put into consideration. The only issue that comes into play is the division she would be fighting in. There is no doubt that there is a lightweight tournament being built for Kayla Harrison. Would Smith be willing to move up in weight, or would she wait until a possible new division is created in a few years? At 36, she might not have many options.
This is one of the most fascinating stories in MMA. Barnett (35-8) was one of the youngest UFC Heavyweight Champions of all time. He was then flagged with a potential failed drug test by USADA. After going through a lot of politics, Barnett was cleared after it was determined a contaminated supplement was the reason for the failed test. Seeing how shady USADA and the UFC can be (as we’ve seen with Jon Jones), Barnett asked for his release. He has dabbled in pro wrestling and has even done some commentary.
Not involved with an MMA promotion since June 2018, Barnett is just itching to fight again. When speaking with MMA Fighting, Barnett didn’t know where he wanted to go. He did know what he wanted wherever he did go.
“It’s got to excite me,” Barnett said. “It has to be the right name, the right time, the right setting, it has to fit in with the rest of my schedule. I’m not going to lock down to one promoter. I still want to fight, you’ll see me fight some time next year, it’s just a matter of when and where.”
Being flexible? Seems like the PFL could be a good fit. With seasonal tournaments, the schedule of the man with 21 wins via submission could end up working well with their format. With a heavyweight division that may need some new talent, Barnett could end up being a solid grab.
Another Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure
The UFC flyweight division is about to become extinct thanks to Dana White. Several fighters have already lost their jobs, some who were on impressive runs beforehand. The PFL can use some of these fighters. There can be another division added to the system or some fighters could move up in weight.
There’s Jose Torres (8-1), whose only loss came against Alex Perez at UFC 227. The 26-year-old was the first to be let go by the UFC, and he hasn’t been picked up since. With an impressive streak while with Titan FC and four wins via KO, Torres may end up being a big deal.
There is also 25-year-old Jarred Brooks (14-2), who won his last bout with the UFC back at UFC 228 in September. He was released in November. The last guy he beat, Roberto Sanchez (8-2) is someone who is also available. He went 1-2 in his last three fights but had a seven-fight win streak beforehand. There is always value in the unknown, and these guys and more provide some value to a league looking to give fighters a chance.
The UFC is in a very interesting situation with the loudmouth Covington. As gifted as he is obnoxious, Covington (14-1) was set to face Tyron Woodley for the Welterweight Title. Not taking UFC-mandated fights, among other things, Covington was stripped of the interim title he won at UFC 225. His title fight was also taken away in favor of a Woodley matchup against Kamaru Usman.
Now, Covington is threatening to leave the UFC. Speaking on the MMA Hour, Covington thought he was being treated unfairly due to not being available to fight at the desired time the UFC wanted him to.
“I’m standing [by] my guns,” said Covington. “I’m not fighting for anything less than what I was promised and what I deserve — and that’s a title shot.”
If he was to leave, the PFL seems like the perfect fit. A phenomenal wrestler, Covington’s speed, power and overall ability speaks for itself. Knowing his “persona”, would the PFL be interested in a headache like Covington? He could bring in a lot of viewers due to that exact confidence, something any organization would be enticed by. The welterweight division owned by Magomed Magomedkerimov would definitely be put on notice with a signing like Covington.
The former UFC Women’s Flyweight Champion has one more fight left under her current contract with the UFC. She is hoping for a rematch with Amanda Nunes, who beat Cyborg for the championship at UFC 232. Dana White, however, does not believe she deserves a rematch. Add this with Cyborg and White’s not-so-cordial relationship in the past, and Cyborg may be very willing to walk away from the UFC.
At 33, Cyborg (20-2, 1 NC) is in the prime of her career. She lost for the first time since 2005, her first fight. There is no doubt her and Harrison could be the faces of PFL female divisions. How they would utilize Cyborg, who is known for dismantling her opponents, would be up in the air. Who would say no to a woman with 17 wins via KO though?
Cyborg loves to fight. Maybe a tournament format like the PFL could be something she could sink her teeth, or fists, into.
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