Two notes before we begin, one pertaining to the UFC’s targeted May 9 return, one pertaining to the NFL’s official video game
First, Amanda Nunes, who had been scheduled to fight Felicia Spencer in defense of her Women’s Featherweight title at the newly-retitled UFC 249 on May 9, has withdrawn from the event due to insufficient time to train for the fight.
Second, Baltimore Ravens quarterback and 2019 NFL MVP Lamar Jackson revealed in a Tuesday conference call that he’ll be the cover athlete for EA Sports Madden NFL 21, due out later this summer.
Onward to today’s main focus:
On Monday, the Professional Fighters League became the first United States-based mixed martial arts promotion to move to postpone its entire schedule of events this year—a move necessitated by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Due to the decision made by the PFL, the third season of the MMA promotion which formerly operated as the World Series of Fighting will be pushed back to 2021 and aired and streamed on ESPN2 and ESPN+, respectively.
As previously mentioned on this site earlier in the week, ESPN’s broadcast contract with the PFL was initially due to expire following the now-canceled 2020 season, but both parties are committed to honoring the second of a two-year deal when the PFL resumes in 2021.
PFL CEO Peter Murray had this to say about the decision to delay the third season of the league to next year:
“PFL is a global MMA league, with athletes from over 25 countries. Our team decided that first and foremost, for the health and safety of our fighters, fans, business partners and event personnel, with so much uncertainty surrounding Covid-19, we determined that this is the best course of action. It’s prudent and guided by safety. Our decision is to push back the upcoming season, which was previously scheduled to begin in May, to spring 2021 on ESPN.”
The PFL’s decision to push back the third season of competition was the right call, that goes without saying.
Given that the PFL holds its events in a season format, plus the uncertainty surrounding stay-at-home orders in the midst of the current world health crisis, time was not on the league’s side for this year.
Even though stay-at-home restrictions will eventually be loosened, who’s to say that the competitors would have time to train, fight, train again, and fight again to compete in a regular season given the initial delay?
At this time, I expect other MMA promotions to continue to evaluate the situation and make decisions on cancellations and postponements as time wears on.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Bellator MMA postponed Bellator 244, scheduled for June 6, due to the health crisis
More postponed events are entirely possible at this stage, and once we get word of them, we’ll pass them along your way.
However, what could be the next move for the PFL?
Peter Murray has said that his organization would be open to non-season cards later in the year—a topic discussed by ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi, and Jeff Wagenheim in a roundtable article on Tuesday.
Opinions on this issue varied among the four MMA journalists, with Helwani advocating for recognized names on the fight, Okamoto backing a single-night tournament, Wagenheim calling for a championship event, and Raimondi wanting to see fights that determine the pairings for next season.
I side with Helwani and Wagenheim.
As with any sport, mixed martial arts has athletes that have become household names.
In the PFL, the latest household name is Rory MacDonald, a former Welterweight champion in Bellator MMA.
If the PFL books him to fight last year’s Welterweight champion Ali Isaev in a non-season card, it would be well worth the time to watch.
Everybody would want to watch a champion vs. champion fight.
Before the season was canceled, last year’s Featherweight champion Lance Palmer was to have fought PFL newcomer and former TITAN FC Featherweight champion Jason Soares in the first PFL event of the year.
Imagine for a moment that the PFL rebooked that fight for a non-season card.
That, too, would be worth the watch.
You’d have champion vs. champion in a fight that’s main event quality.
Given the magnitude of the situation with the pandemic, the PFL should consider holding non-season events for the benefit of a charitable organization such as Doctors Without Borders.
The medical personnel who are currently on the front lines are our true champions.
Not all champions wear belts.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
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