ARLINGTON, Texas – There were high expectations in 2021 when the PFL brought in two high-profile free agents.
Former Bellator welterweight champion Rory MacDonald and ex-UFC and WEC lightweight champ Anthony Pettis joined the promotion and were instantly frontrunners to win their seasons – and the $1 million prize that comes with each division’s title.
But it was far from smooth sailing for the two. Pettis lost both his fights in the regular season and missed the four-man playoffs. MacDonald went 1-1 and missed out on the postseason, as well.
But this past week at the PFL’s third regular-season event of the year, each of them got back on track in a big way.
Pettis (25-12) submitted Myles Price (11-8) in the first round to pick up 6 points in the lightweight standings. And while it’s not mathematically assured he’ll make the playoffs, a finish in his second fight would lock up a spot.
And MacDonald (23-8-1) forced Brett Cooper (28-16) to tap in the first round for 6 points of his own at welterweight. MacDonald is in the same position as Pettis: A finish in his second fight will ensure a playoff berth.
PFL president Ray Sefo said he was impressed with how Pettis and MacDonald rebounded from their disappointing 2021 campaigns, and it was evident to him they made adjustments based on the promotion’s season format.
“I think Anthony said it right in one of the interviews: When he came here from the UFC, he thought he was just going to walk in and do his thing,” Sefo said after PFL Week 3 in Arlington, Texas. “And he said thanks to the guys he did fight (in 2021) and lost to, it made him work harder. We just saw a different guy in the cage (Friday). He was a lot sharper, and he just looked great.
“I think sometimes you’ve got to take a step back just to take four steps forward. I think that’s what happened with him. Rory, of course, he won one last year and lost one. But again, he’s another one that – he looked great, too. It’s finally working for them because getting used to the format where to get to the championship, you’ve got to fight back to back. I think they understand it better now, and I was really happy for them.”
The PFL’s second matchups of the regular season are expected to be announced in the coming weeks. Pettis will return June 17 at Overtime Elite Arena in Atlanta when the lightweights and light heavyweights have their second bouts. MacDonald will be on the bill July 1 at the same arena when welterweights and women’s lightweights are back in action.