The Professional Fighters League (PFL) capped off a historic year in 2023 with the landmark acquisition of once-rival promotion Bellator MMA. While there certainly had been rumblings during the latter part of the year, the PFL finally made the big announcement on the week of their 2023 Season Finale, setting the tone for what would be a memorable culminating week for the United States-based MMA promotion.
With Bellator and it’s stacked roster now under the PFL’s control, there have been many doors opened for potential superfights and opportunities for memorable moments. It also opens the door for some of the Bellator stars to make an even bigger name on the PFL stage.
From current champions to stars on the rise, here are some Bellator names that could make a big impact in the PFL in 2024.
Cris “Cyborg” Justino
While Cris “Cyborg” is already a major name, the PFL-Bellator union allows the reigning Bellator Women’s Featherweight Champion to finally get the big fight that she – and the rest of the MMA world – have been calling for: a dream match with Kayla Harrison. Cyborg and Harrison have been going back-and-forth on social media for years now, and with both women’s MMA stars competing under the same company, it’s high-time that the two finally share the cage. Apart from the Harrison dream match, Cyborg can also test herself against the PFL’s best 145-pounders, including against fellow dominant Brazilian Larissa Pacheco. It’s safe to say that the PFL’s acquisition of Bellator will be a big boost for Cyborg’s career in more ways than one.
Coming into the PFL as Bellator’s reigning Middleweight Champion benefits Johnny Eblen for the simple fact that the PFL has no middleweight division. Should the PFL take Bellator’s best 185-pounders and hold an inaugural million dollar middleweight tournament, Eblen would likely be the odds-on favorite. Eblen could not only add “PFL Middleweight Champion” to his resume, but he also could bring home a cool million-dollar purse for his efforts.
It’s been documented that featherweight contender Aaron Pico is already preparing for his PFL debut. While the elite level wrestler wasn’t able to capture gold in his Bellator career, he certainly should be a top contender in the PFL’s 145-pound shark tank, which is currently ruled by Jesus Pinedo. While it won’t be an easy task, Pico definitely has the skillset to become a champion in the PFL and add a world championship to his list of accolades.
Much like Johnny Eblen, Liz Carmouche could be the cornerstone for a new weight class in the PFL. After PFL Europe’s widely-successful inaugural season, the PFL found itself a crop of talented new women’s flyweight contenders, highlighted by English sensation Dakota Ditcheva, who went on to capture the league’s inaugural PFL Women’s Flyweight Championship. Bellator champion Carmouche and Ditcheva could be the stars behind the PFL’s newest women’s weight class, but if the league does pull the trigger on a female 125-pound tournament, “Girl-rilla” would be the odds-on favorite.
Another champion to benefit from becoming one of the pioneers of a weight class in the PFL, Bellator’s reigning 135-pound king Patchy Mix would find great success competing for a million dollar purse and the inaugural PFL Bantamweight Championship. With the PFL looking to target regions such as Asia and the Middle East, both rich in talented fighters in the lighter weight divisions, a Mix-led bantamweight division would surely be a draw on an international stage.