The PFL Finals have arrived and will take place this Friday in Washington, D.C. Since the inception of the playoff format in 2018, the PFL has separated itself from other MMA organizations with its uniquity. While unique, the concept of points and playoffs in combat sports can be confusing at first glance. Today, we’ll break down the PFL playoff format and explain how it works.
The PFL was created in 2018 following the acquisition and restructuring of the World Series of Fighting by the MMAX Investment Group. They held their first event that same year and introduced the world to their playoff format. Currently, there are 74 fighters in six different weight classes. The top four ranked fighters make the semifinals in these six weight classes. A point system determines these playoff spots; fighters earn points based on their performance in the regular season. A fighter is awarded three points for winning a fight, whereas you receive zero points for a loss. You receive bonus points for finishing your opponent, which is determined by the speed of the finish; a first-round finish is worth three points, a second-round finish is worth two, and a third-round finish is worth one. Fighters that miss weight are deducted one point and are disallowed from earning points from their fight, regardless of the outcome.
All fighters compete twice during the regular season, with six regular season events taking place in 2023 in April and June. There have been three playoff events in 2023, all in August, in which the semifinal round took place, determining the championship matchups. This Friday, we will witness the final round of the playoffs, in which six victorious fighters will walk away with a million-dollar prize. This structure has evolved; initially, the top eight fighters from each division made the playoffs, with a quarterfinal round taking place prior to the semifinals. This format led to some fighters having to compete twice in one night and was ultimately changed to just the top four fighters making the playoffs in 2021. The 2023 season is the first season featuring a women’s Featherweight division as opposed to women’s Lightweight, which was the only female weight class in the PFL from 2019 to 2022. The PFL has a few other distinctive features, like using a 10-sided cage and a complete ban on using elbow strikes.
The PFL continues distinguishing itself from other promotions, introducing the “Super Fight” division this year. This division is not determined by weight but by the fame and notoriety of the fighters within it. Jake Paul co-founded this, and it is planned that fighters who compete in this division will earn 50% of pay-per-view revenue, much higher than the 20% awarded to fighters by the UFC. Looking to find a more direct way to recruit fighters, the PFL introduced the “Challenger Series,” a series of events modeled on Dana White’s Contender Series. Up-and-coming fighters compete for a PFL contract while a panel of celebrity guests hosts the event. They have also introduced PFL Europe and PFL MENA (Middle East and North Africa), regional promotions looking to feature and sign top talents from those regions. As of 2021, the PFL broadcasts in 160 countries and recently signed a multi-year extension with ESPN, the premier sports broadcaster in the United States.