The Professional Fighters League's 2022 playoffs kick off this week in New York, and a league that provides itself on innovation has revealed a new format for its postseason events.
The first of three upcoming playoff events, 2022 PFL Playoffs 1 takes place Friday at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, airing on ESPN and streaming on ESPN+ (7 p.m. ET). While the company's traditional playoff brackets will remain the key focus of each of the playoff events, PFL CEO Peter Murray recently revealed that every fight on the card will feature "do or die" stakes of a few different varieties.
"What we've worked to do with these cards – all three, including New York, Cardiff and London – these are cards with purpose, meaning every fight truly counts," Murray told MMA Underground. "Of course we have our semifinal matchups, but every fight on the card will really matter.
"In New York, we will have two fights that lead into the four semifinal fights that are do or die, meaning the fighters who win those fights will secure their position on next season's 2023 roster, and whomever loses, we're going to say, 'Thank you, it's time for you to move on.'"
Unlike other major MMA promotions, the PFL uses a traditional league format, with fighters taking part in a regular season as they look to qualify for that year's playoffs and ultimately an annual championship.
The four fighters looking to secure their place on the promotion's 2023 roster with a win Friday include a light heavyweight contest between Marthin Hamlet (9-4) and Corey Hendricks (9-4), as well as a heavyweight matchup between Marcelo Nunes (8-1) and Dylan Potter (10-5).
Those two elimination matchups lead into semifinal contests in the lightweight division with Anthony Pettis (25-13) vs. Stevie Ray (24-10) and Olivier Aubin-Mercier (15-5) vs. Alex Martinez (10-2), as well as at light heavyweight, with Omari Akhmedov (23-7-1) vs. Josh Silveira (9-0) and Delan Monte (9-2) vs. Rob Wilkinson (15-5).
The winners of those four contests move on to the 2022 PFL Championship, where winners take home the season's title, as well as $1 million.
But that's not all the promotion has planned for its upcoming events. Following the night's main card, additional bouts will stream on ESPN+ and will see prospects looking to secure a spot in next year's PFL Challenger Series events, which feature up-and-coming prospects looking to qualify for a future regular season berth.
"For the ESPN+ viewers as well as the fans at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, the event will continue after the semifinal fights, and we get into the same thing: Do or die," Murray explained. "These are fights that matter, and it's the PFL Challenger Series qualifiers. Whoever wins will get their deal confirmed for next year's Challenger Series roster, and those who lose, once again, we'll say, 'Thank you, and time to move on.'"
In past years, PFL playoff events were filled out by showcase fights, which produced winners and losers but seemingly took place outside of the company's traditional format. Under the company's new plans, that's no longer the case.
"These cards have consequence," Murray said. "Every fight matters for these fighters. It leads to the next phase in their career, in their season or chapter with the PFL."
Following Friday's event, the PFL playoffs continue Aug. 13 in Cardiff and Aug. 20 in London. Details for the company's 2022 championship event have yet to be revealed.
This story first published at SI.com/MMA.