The Professional Fighters League (PFL) is one of the most recent additions to MMA promotions worldwide. While it does follow the "Unified Rules of MMA" like the UFC and Bellator, the PFL has its own scoring system. Unlike the UFC, which scores each round, or ONE Championship, which scores a fight in its entirety, the PFL follows a season-based format.
In their own words, as described on the PFL website:
"The Professional Fighters League (PFL) presents MMA for the first time in the sport-season format where individual fighters control their own destiny, competing in a regular season, playoffs, and championship. PFL’s differentiated format and exciting fights sparked breakout growth for the league."
What does this mean? Essentially, the company is treating MMA similar to team sports which have seasons and playoffs. It is definitely an interesting approach, one that hasn't been done before in modern MMA. While it is similar to a traditional MMA tournament or Grand Prix, it isn't exactly the same, primarily owing to their scoring structure.
What is the PFL structure, and how do they score their fights?
The PFL follows a point-based scoring system, with fighters competing twice during the regular season. Four fighters with the most points in their respective divisions advance to the playoffs, which essentially work similar to the semi-finals of a tournament. There are no quarter-finals whatsoever.
Fights are three-round bouts, and the winners are awarded three points. Bonus points are awarded for knockouts and submission wins. If a fighter finishes a bout in the first round, they are awarded three bonus points. Second and third-round finishes are awarded two and one points, respectively.
Effectively, if a fighter wins in the first round, they will be awarded six total points. A second-round finish will give them five total points, and a third-round finish will award them four total points.
The loser of the fight is not awarded any points. If a fight ends in a draw, however, both fighters will be awarded a single point. Fighters who weigh in over the division limit will have one point deducted from their season total and will be ineligible to win any points from the ensuing fight.
In the playoffs, the player with the most points is ranked number one and will face number four. The number two and three ranked players will face each other. The semi-finals are three-round bouts. The winners of these bouts will face each other in a five-round championship fight, the winner of which will walk away with a $1 million prize.
PFL 2021 Season
The 2021 season of the promotion has found itself in controversy after former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum lost his bout to Renan Ferreira at PFL 3. Ferreira currently sits alongside the top winners of the heavyweight division with six points, but Werdum has appealed to the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board.
Fabricio Werdum isn't the only former UFC star to have signed with the PFL. Former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and former UFC welterweight title challenger Rory MacDonald have also signed with the promotion.
Women's boxing icon Claressa Shields is also due to make her MMA debut with the organization on June 10, 2021.