New faces and former champs face off in the 2023 PFL playoffs
The PFL stands alone among mixed martial arts promotions — in its format, at least.
No other fight organization conducts a regular season followed by seeded playoff brackets. And instead of subjective rankings, which sort out the various divisions in the UFC and Bellator and fuel much of the matchmaking, the PFL establishes hierarchies in its six weight classes with points standings based solely on fight results.
The last of those defining details especially appeals to those who cringe at fabricated narratives. No trash talk is needed to get ahead in the PFL. Just win and move on.
And yet to suggest that everything is unambiguous in the PFL would be folly. When the 2023 playoffs get underway Friday in San Antonio with semifinal fights in the light heavyweight and men’s featherweight divisions (main card at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN+), the vagaries of the PFL’s season format will be on full display. That will continue to be the case when the playoffs move to New York City for more semis on Aug. 18 and 23.
While three weight classes have champions looking to repeat, the other divisions feature playoff-tested contenders who, in past seasons, missed out on the big payoff. Every division will mix in some fresh faces. Some participants took straight, smooth paths to the playoffs, while others got there via winding, bumpy roads. There even was a questionable promotional decision involved in one instance.
Here are the unexpected and unlikely stories of the 2023 PFL playoffs.