Last week, the Professional Fighters League (PFL) wrapped up another memorable season with their 2023 PFL World Championship event. Dubbed as “MMA’s Richest Night”, the league’s finale for the 2023 PFL Season saw six world championships crowned, and as many million-dollar purses awarded.
The stacked card also saw the return of homegrown PFL stars such as Kayla Harrison and Ray Cooper III, as well as the debut of Derek Brunson.
While the World Championship event was indeed a major highlight for the year, perhaps the bigger story came earlier that week, when the PFL announced that they had finally acquired Bellator MMA, a once-rival promotion that was founded in 2008, and has produced some of the biggest names in the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA).
With the acquisition, the PFL says that they have created a ‘global MMA powerhouse’ and it’s hard to disagree. Now, the PFL also owns Bellator’s roster of fighters, which includes multiple globally-ranked competitors and world champions.
Here’s a quick look at Bellator’s titleholders:
Ryan Bader (Heavyweight)
Vadim Nemkov (Light heavyweight)
Johnny Eblen (Middleweight)
Jason Jackson (Welterweight)
Usman Nurmagomedov (Lightweight)
Patricio “Pitbull” Friere (Featherweight)
Patchy Mix (Bantamweight)
Cris “Cyborg” Justino (Women’s featherweight)
Liz Carmouche (Women’s flyweight).
While the champions already make up an impressive list, Bellator’s roster also features the likes of Sergio Pettis, AJ McKee, Raufeon Stots, Ilima Lei-MacFarlane, Aaron Pico, Logan Storley, and more.
These names are without a doubt amazing additions to the PFL’s roster, and also sets up the possibility of a number of fights that fans have been wanting to see for a long time.
Here are some of the fights that fans can watch out for in the PFL in 2024:
PFL Champions vs. Bellator Champions
Fight fans love to fantasy-book cross-promotional champion-versus-champion matches. With the PFL acquiring Bellator, these fights no longer need to be fantasy affairs. “We can’t wait to bring MMA fans what they have been asking for - best vs best with the PFL Champions vs Bellator Champions Mega-Event,” said PFL CEO Peter Murray in the official release, which means that this has indeed something in the works and will likely take place in 2024.
Following the 2023 PFL World Championship event, here’s how the champion-versus-champion card could look like:
Renan Ferreira vs. Ryan Bader
Impa Kasanganay vs. Vadim Nemkov
Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Jason Jackson
Jesus Pinedo vs. Patricio Pitbull
Larissa Pacheco vs. Cris Cyborg.
While the PFL doesn’t have a middleweight champion, a matchup between Derek Brunson and Bellator’s 185-pound champion Johnny Eblen could make for an intriguing fight to go along with the champ-versus-champ bouts.
Biaggio Ali Walsh’s First Professional Bout
Since joining the PFL, Biaggio Ali Walsh has been easily the biggest name in amateur MMA. The grandson of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, Ali Walsh has made quite the name for himself by picking up five straight knockout wins inside the PFL SmartCage, with the most recent coming against Joel Lopez at the 2023 PFL World Championship card.
Before his fight against Lopez, Ali Walsh already teased the possibility of jumping to the pro ranks with a win. Whether he finally pulls the trigger remains to be seen.
Francis Ngannou vs. Either of the Heavyweight Champions
Former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou was arguably the biggest single signing that the PFL was able to pull off this year. The Cameroonian knockout artist is expected to compete in the PFL’s PPV Superfight Division, and the two heavyweight kings in the company could be intriguing matchups for “The Predator’s” first foray into the PFL SmartCage.
Ngannou versus Ferreira would be an absolute barnburner, with two of the sport’s most feared strikers going head to head. Ngannou versus Bader, meanwhile, would be a classic matchup of styles, and should be an interesting fight to see for fans.
Jake Paul vs. Nate Diaz
The PFL’s other massive signing for 2023 was none other than social media star-turned boxer Jake Paul. Paul signed with the PFL in early 2023, and is expected to make his MMA inside the SmartCage. Like Ngannou, Paul will compete in the league’s PPV Superfight Division, and he has continuously called out former UFC star Nate Diaz.
Paul and Diaz have already crossed paths, duking it out inside the boxing ring, with the former winning by unanimous decision. “The Problem Child” wasted little time in offering Diaz a rematch, but this time inside the PFL SmartCage.
As of writing, Diaz has yet to entertain the offer, but it could be something that comes to fruition in 2024.
Kayla Harrison vs. Cris Cyborg
It goes without saying that this would be the biggest match to book following the PFL-Bellator union.
Harrison and Cyborg have been at odds with each other for years, and it seemed like the two were finally on a collision course when Harrison entered free agency a couple of years back. Ultimately, Harrison decided to remain with the PFL and Cyborg remained with Bellator.
Now, the two are in the same company and it’s only a matter of time before we finally see two of the most dominant women in MMA share the SmartCage.