Yes, 2022 was a memorable year for the PFL.
The fight promotion held its first pay-per-view event, introduced a new competition where undiscovered talent competed for PFL contracts, and continued to make millionaires out of fighters when it crowned 6 new champions at its season-ending event in November. All the while, the PFL arguably seized hold of the No. 2 spots in the MMA industry behind you know who — the UFC.
So let’s take a look back at what made ’22 so massive for the PFL:
Biggest upset: Kayla Harrison vs. Larissa Pacheco
Larissa Pacheco stunned the fighting world when she took down one of the baddest women on the planet: undefeated Kayla Harrison, the two-time defending PFL women’s lightweight champion. Pacheco, who twice before fought Harrison and lost both times, won the lightweight crown with a unanimous decision over Harrison on Nov. 26 inside Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden and in front of the PFL’s first pay-per-view audience.
Smartest money: PFL teams with A-Rod
Former Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez swung for the fences on the future of the PFL. Rodriguez became a partial owner of the MMA league after he participated in a $30 million funding round, the company announced in May. The round was led by Waverley Capital, investor Edgar Bronfman Jr.’s media-focused venture capital fund.
Biggest signing: Shane Burgos
When MMA free agent Shane Burgos announced in August that he would jump from the UFC to the PFL, it was a moment as symbolic as any for the PFL. The Burgos signing marked a shift. It showed a highly marketable fighter in his prime was willing to ditch the UFC to find another road to riches and glory, and that road is the PFL. Even UFC president Dana White lamented Burgos’ departure, saying “we (bleeped) that one up.”
Best submission: Stevie Ray’s body triangle
Stevie Ray tapped out Anthony “Showtime” Pettis in June at PFL 5 with a sensational — and sick — submission move: a body triangle. It was the biggest win of Ray’s career. Then, in an even bigger win, Ray defeated Pettis again two months later in a unanimous decision in the PFL’s lightweight semifinal.
Biggest Deal: PFL in Latin America
The PFL and DIRECTV announced in February a multi-year Latin American media rights agreement. Under the deal, DIRECTV will become the exclusive PFL content provider to millions of MMA fans in Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Uruguay. The DIRECTV deal will also feature localized content in both Spanish and Portuguese.
Best knockout: Dilano Taylor KOs Rory MacDonald
Dilano Taylor, who took a short-notice bout when Magomed Umalatov couldn’t get a visa to fight in Wales, flattened No. 1 welterweight seed Rory MacDonald with an atomic right cross that led to a first-round TKO victory in August at PFL 8. Take a look:
That punch sent Taylor to the November playoff final for a shot at the title and $1 million. But he couldn’t land the big strike on Sadibou Sy, who beat Taylor on points in the final.
Match of the year: Bubba Jenkins vs. Brendan Loughnane
It was a war. Brendan Loughnane and Bubba Jenkins engaged in heavy combat for the PFL’s 2022 featherweight title — ultimately won by Loughnane with a fourth-round TKO. The bout showcased Loughnane’s high-low assault, mixing in thudding leg strikes with dazzling fist combinations. The match also unveiled something else — Jenkins’ warrior heart.
Biggest opportunity: PFL Challenger Series
The PFL kicked off 2022 with the Challenger Series, which aired on eight consecutive Friday nights. The series showcased “undiscovered” talent who competed for a PFL contract. Fans voted on Twitter for fighters deserving of a deal, and a celebrity panel recommended who should get signed by the league. The PFL Challenger Series’ second season starts on Jan. 27 and streams every Friday night through March 17 exclusively on Fubo Sports Network.