As the 2019 Professional Fighters League playoffs draw near, $1 million paydays lie just a few fights away.
For the 44 fighters still in contention across six divisions, October is a make-or-break month. The math is simple: Win two fights in one night in Las Vegas (or just one fight, in the case of the women's lightweight division) and you lock up a spot in the PFL finals in December.
For new fans of the PFL, or those looking for a refresher, the playoffs are another unique wrinkle in the season-long format -- and we're here to offer an in-depth primer on everything you need to know ahead of the PFL's return to action.
Where and when do the PFL playoffs take place?
The quarterfinals and semifinals will take place over the course of three nights in October at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. The welterweights and women's lightweights will fight on Friday, Oct. 11 (8 p.m. ET on ESPN+, 10 p.m. on ESPN2), the men's lightweights and featherweights are set for Thursday, Oct. 17 (8 p.m. on ESPN2, 10:30 p.m. on ESPN+) and the light heavyweights and heavyweights close out the stretch on Halloween (Thursday, Oct. 31 at 5 p.m. on ESPN+, 8 p.m. on ESPN2).
The finals for all six divisions are scheduled for New Year's Eve (Tuesday, Dec. 31 at 7 p.m. on ESPN2) in New York City.
Before the playoffs begin, check out a full breakdown of the brackets and standings.
How does the first night of the playoffs work?
For the five men's divisions, which have eight playoff qualifiers each, fighters will have to win two fights in one night to make the finals. The quarterfinal fights will be two-round bouts. If a bout goes to the scorecards and each fighter has won one round, judges will declare a winner. That's a change from Season 1 of the PFL, in which draws would go to the winner of the first round.
The semifinal round later in the night will be a standard three-round MMA fight.
As for the women's lightweight division, because its season started with eight fighters and only four made the playoffs, there won't be a quarterfinal round of the playoffs. Both semifinals will be three-round fights.
What happens in the case of an injury during the two-fight night or a weight issue?
Each division has an alternate ready to step into the bracket, filling the spot vacated by the fighter who has to drop out prior to the playoffs taking place. In each division, the alternate is the fighter who finished one spot shy of the playoffs (fifth place at women's lightweight, ninth in all other divisions).
Women's lightweight: Bobbi Jo Dalziel
Welterweight: Handesson Ferreira
Featherweight: Alexandre Almeida
Men's lightweight: Ylies Djiroun
Light heavyweight: Dan Spohn
Heavyweight: Ante Delija
If a fighter wins a quarterfinal fight but suffers an injury and can't continue that night, someone who has already fought previously in the night will step in.
From the PFL Rules and Regulations (page 14): "In the event of a quarterfinal winner being unable to continue, the fighter who lost to the fighter who can't continue will be first in line to be the replacement. If that fighter cannot continue either, then the highest-seeded quarterfinal losing fighter who is able to compete will be selected to move on. If there are no losing fighters available, then an eligible alternate will step in to compete, if available. In the event that none of the above are available to compete, the fighter who has no semifinal opponent will receive a semifinal walkover and will advance to the championship."
Are there unique rules or circumstances in the PFL, compared to other MMA organizations?
The primary difference in terms of the fighting inside of the cage is that there are no elbows allowed in the PFL, in order to limit cuts and other injuries that might be difficult to heal in the shorter time window between fights.
From the PFL rules and regulations: "There will be no elbows allowed anywhere anytime (on the ground, standing, clinch) during the 2019 PFL regular season, playoffs and championship. Fighters who violate this rule will be subject to a point reduction, and/or disqualification, at the commission-appointed referee's discretion."
In terms of the space where the fights play out, the PFL's decagon-shaped cage is 28 feet in diameter, compared to the UFC's 30-foot-diameter Octagon.
Which of the big winners from Season 1 are in contention for a repeat run?
Three of the six PFL champions from 2018 are back in the playoffs and ready for a second crack at a title: featherweight Lance Palmer, lightweight Natan Schulte and welterweight Magomed Magomedkerimov. Palmer and Schulte are No. 1 seeds this year, while Magomedkerimov settled for a No. 2 seed.