The Professional Fighters League (PFL) announced in a press release on Monday that it would be suspending its 2020 season due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and would be compensating its contracted fighters with a “monthly cash stipend.”
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The decision, which came after the world surpassed over 2.4 million confirmed cases of the disease, is perhaps the most progressive approach of any major MMA organization to date.
PFL light heavyweight Jordan Young, who only recently signed with the promotion, agrees that the decision to suspend the season was made in the best interests of the fighters.
“I think that [with] the PFL, the tournament was important to them, and I think that if fighter safety really wasn’t a concern, they wouldn’t have suspended the season,” Young told The Body Lock.
To Young, the PFL’s organized and time-sensitive structure affected it uniquely amid a viral pandemic.
“I think that the PFL is in a little bit of a different scenario than the other promotions because the other promotions, they have their backing and doing things on the schedulers, but their schedules are a little bit more flexible. I know they lock in their venues and dates, and they have their goals quarterly and whatnot, but with the PFL, they have a set date in mind on December 31 where they want to do their tournament finale,” said Young.
“So, we already were on such a tight schedule where you’re looking at two to five fights with only, you know, five to six weeks in between your fights. If you couldn’t do 2-3 months into the summertime because of the virus, then you’d be left with so many fights to cram in such a small amount of months. In my opinion, that’s how I viewed it.”
Young noted that promotion had not informed him of the decision to suspend the season initially and that he found out about the move from the media.
“You know, I was a little taken by surprise, just because I was coming out of a meeting and my phone started ringing. You know, I had different people calling me and I had to get on social media and read it, you know, via an article. I don’t know too many details, so I don’t really have too much of an opinion on it,” said the 25-year-old.
The promotion has yet to tell the fighters how much the monthly stipends will be worth, something Young believes could be a nuanced issue to work out.
“I’m interested to see how they’re going to proceed with it, and what monthly payments will be looking like and things like that. I think it’s a hard thing to judge when not every fighter’s the same. Are you telling me that newcomers to the promotion are gonna get paid the same monthly payment that champions get paid, you know what I’m saying? I’m just interested in how the math will break down.
“If you ask me, I think a fair way to do it would be you take the two playoff fights that we were all guaranteed to have, and you pay us our show money. Not necessarily our money as if we showed up in won, but at least our show money for the dates that we were already agreeing to show up and partake in,” said Young, perhaps by “add[ing] the amount of the to show money, and then you pay it out monthly, like, whatever that number is divided into the monthly stipends.”
However the promotion decides to handle monthly stipends, Young says he believes the promotion will do so in a way that takes care of its fighters and considers stipends during COVID-19 to be essential to the future of the fighters and the sport.
“Like I said, I think that they’re going to do the right thing by us and I’m interested to hear exactly what they think that is. I have my own ideas on what would work and what would be good for me, but I also am not the head of the company, so,” Young began.
“I think it’s to keep the sport alive,” said Young. “In the NFL, the league minimum is, what, $500,000? You look at the number one promotion in MMA, and the champion is getting paid a base of 500,000. So, it’s a vast difference in pay. Fighters, if they’re not getting paid through fighting, then how are they getting paid?”
The 11-1 fighter signed with PFL after a seven-fight tenure in Bellator, citing the PFL’s million-dollar prize and fight frequency as motivating factors. In recent months, Young underwent surgery for a torn labrum in his hip and has been rehabbing following his first career loss, a decision to Contender Series veteran Julius Anglickas.
For Young, the time off may have some silver linings.
“I’m looking at it the best way I can,” he said. “When I signed with the PFL, they put a belief in me and I put a belief in them. They’re saying the 2021 season is going to be a go, so I’m just looking at staying focused and being the best me that I can be physically and mentally so when 2021 hits and that new season hits, I’m going to be in a great position. Let’s say that the 2021 season starts in one year from now – which, I think about a month from now is when the 2020 season was gonna start – you’re given me a little over a year to manifest what it is I want.
“Manifestation is a powerful tool and I plan on using that along with hard work to be in a great position when 2021 comes along.”
Michael Fiedel is The Body Lock's deputy editor, a staff writer for FloCombat, and a Russell-Rice scholarship recipient at Vanderbilt University.