The Professional Fighters League (PFL), the first organization ever to present MMA through a Regular Season, Playoffs and Championship format, recently unveiled the first of three rounds of roster selections for the 2019 season. This initial group features nine returning finalists from their respective weight divisions, including five of the 2018 PFL World Champions.
All ten PFL events will air live across ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+, the direct-to-consumer subscription sports streaming service in the United States, with up to three hours of exclusive action live on ESPN+ and up to two exclusive hours live on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. Regular season action will take place on Thursday nights. Additionally, fights will be distributed to 130 plus countries around the world on premium linear and digital sports networks.
2019 will again feature six weight divisions, including the first-ever Women’s 155 lbs Lightweight division, anchored by two-time U.S. Olympic Judo Gold Medalist Kayla Harrison. With the addition of Women’s Lightweight, Men’s Middleweight has been eliminated this season. As a result, Louis Taylor now looks to become the first two division champion in PFL history as he moves down from Middleweight to Welterweight. Lance Palmer (Featherweight), Natan Schulte (Lightweight), Magomed Magomedkerimov (Welterweight), and Philipe Lins (Heavyweight) also return and will strive to repeat as champions. 2018 Light Heavyweight Champion Sean O’Connell retired on top and will be transitioning to broadcasting full time for the PFL as the lead play-by-play announcer.
Steven Siler (Featherweight), Rashid Magomedov (Lightweight), Ray Cooper III (Welterweight) and Vinny Magalhaes (Light Heavyweight) make their return as they aim to earn the crown this season.
“We are excited to announce our returning PFL champions and other great athletes who competed in the League last season. The 2019 PFL Roster Selection Process has been incredibly competitive, as the best MMA fighters from around the world want to join the PFL, especially now that we’ve established the Regular Season, Playoffs and Championship format and will be distributed Thursday nights on ESPN this May,” said Ray Sefo, President, PFL Fighter Operations. “The PFL’s goal is to continually elevate our fighter roster and provide fans with the best MMA action in the world. Over the coming weeks, we’ll continue to unveil the sport’s top new and returning fighters who will be joining the PFL for the 2019 season.”
PFL 2019: Round One Selections
Philipe Lins (Brazil), 2018 PFL Heavyweight World Champion: Lins stopped all four of his PFL opponents on his way to the 2018 Heavyweight belt, with three of those wins coming by knockout. The title was the culmination of a four-year journey back from a devastating ACL tear he suffered during a fight in 2014. The injury kept Lins out of the sport for two years, but the Brazilian returned better than ever and earned his million-dollar check. Lins is a smooth counter puncher who has a knack for luring his opponents in before delivering big shots.
Vinny Magalhaes (Brazil), 2018 PFL Light Heavyweight Runner-Up: Magalhaes rolled through his first four fights of the 2018 season, winning each by stoppage, all in less than two minutes. In the Championship, that run finally ended, as Sean O’Connell was able to defeat Magalhaes by 3rd round TKO. Magalhaes is a former Brazilian jiu jitsu world champion with 14 career MMA wins by submission, none more memorable than his flying triangle kimura against Rakim Cleveland in the PFL quarterfinals. Magalhaes now returns to claim the title that eluded him last season.
Magomed Magomedkerimov (Russia), 2018 PFL Welterweight World Champion: Magomedkerimov finished the 2018 regular season and playoffs undefeated but was still an underdog heading into the Championship against Ray Cooper III, who had knocked out all four of his previous PFL opponents. Magomedkerimov showed his fighting IQ and quickness, executing a smart game plan to defeat Cooper by submission in the 2nd round (guillotine choke) to take home the $1 million. Magomedkerimov has won 8 straight and has never been knocked out in his career.
Louis Taylor (USA), 2018 PFL Middleweight World Champion: Taylor moves down to Welterweight after claiming the PFL Middleweight World Title in 2018 in shocking fashion: a 33-second KO of favored Abus Magomedov. With one powerful left hook, the 39-year-old father-of-two earned $1 million. Taylor was raised in the violent Chicago neighborhood of Englewood. He wrestled in college and became a high school coach before making his MMA debut. Taylor often speaks out against gun violence and uses the nickname “Put the Guns Down.”
Ray Cooper III (USA), 2018 PFL Welterweight Runner-Up: Cooper III was one of the breakout stars of 2018. Prior to his submission loss in the title fight against Magomed Magomedkerimov, he had won all four of his PFL fights by knockout, including 2 TKOs of veteran Jake Shields. Cooper, who had the 2nd-fastest punch of the 2018 season (31 mph), hails from the Hawaiian island of Oahu. He’s the son of a former MMA fighter, Ray Cooper Jr., and he trains in his family’s home gym with his father and his brothers.
Natan Schulte (Brazil), 2018 PFL Lightweight World Champion: Schulte, the PFLs youngest world champion, returns aiming to repeat. The Brazilian was under the radar entering the 2018 season, but quickly made a name for himself, winning both of his regular season bouts, including one by first-round submission. That result clinched the #1 seed in the playoffs, where he advanced to the final after defeating Chris Wade in the semis by split decision in one of the fights of the season. In the five-round Championship fight, Schulte showed top-notch takedown prowess and relentless endurance to beat Rashid Magomedov by unanimous decision and earn $1 million.
Rashid Magomedov (Russia), 2018 PFL Lightweight Runner Up: Magomedov missed the beginning of the 2018 PFL season due to injury, but that didn’t stop the Russian from qualifying for the playoffs and advancing through the postseason to the Championship. Ultimately, Magomedov fell to Natan Schulte by decision in the title fight. That loss was one of just a few blemishes in Magomedov’s career: he went 5-1 with the UFC and is 15-2-1 in his last 18 fights. Unlike most fighters from Dagestan, Magomedov is a striker who grew up boxing rather than wrestling.
Lance Palmer (USA), 2018 PFL Featherweight World Champion: Palmer is a former 4-time All-American wrestler from Ohio State University, where he finished second at NCAAs as a senior. Palmer beat #1 seed Steven Siler by unanimous decision at the 2018 PFL World Championship to earn the 2018 PFL Featherweight world title. He was one of three fighters to achieve a perfect 2018 PFL season, finishing 5-0, with two wins coming by submission.
Steven Siler (USA), 2018 PFL Featherweight Runner Up: The most experienced fighter in the division last season, Siler returns to the PFL looking to avenge his loss to Lance Palmer at the 2018 PFL World Championship. Siler secured the #1 seed and advanced through the playoffs before falling to Palmer via unanimous decision. Siler has 32 career victories, 17 coming by submission.