PFL today announced the return of all six 2019 world champions for the 2020 season. Kayla Harrison (women’s lightweight), Lance Palmer (featherweight), Ray Cooper III (welterweight), Natan Schulte (lightweight), Emiliano Sordi (light heavyweight) and Ali Isaev (heavyweight) aim to repeat what they achieved last year and earn another $1 million prize.
The returning champions road to the 2020 PFL World Championship will be the most challenging to date, as they will face a revamped roster, with 50% of the fighters new to the PFL, including welterweight free agent signing Rory MacDonald and featherweight free agent signing Brendan Loughnane. The 2020 season begins in May and will be distributed to 160 countries worldwide.
“We are thrilled to welcome back our six champions, elite MMA fighters who have embraced the PFL’s season format and the transparency it brings to the sport,” said PFL CEO Peter Murray. “They earned their way through a regular season, fight twice in one-night playoffs and championship finale on New Year’s Eve, a challenging yet rewarding journey to the pinnacle of MMA. But to repeat in 2020, they’ll need to earn it again by battling a refreshed, elevated roster of next-level talent. Fighters from around the world are vying for spots in the PFL, and we look forward to unveiling new challengers on the road to PFL 2020.”
Returning 2019 PFL World Champions
Kayla Harrison (USA), 2019 PFL Light Heavyweight World Champion: Two-time Olympic judo gold medallist Kayla Harrison made history in 2019 by becoming the first-ever women’s lightweight champion in MMA, earning the million-dollar prize that came with it as well. She did so in dominant fashion, controlling every fight with her superior grappling abilities, including the unanimous decision victory over Larissa Pacheco in the headlining championship fight on New Year’s Eve. Kayla is a rising MMA star, undefeated (7-0) and now a champion, determined to repeat.
Lance Palmer (USA), 2019 and 2018 PFL Featherweight World Champion: Palmer continues to establish himself as one of the best featherweights in MMA following a second straight PFL featherweight title and million-dollar prize. Lance is undefeated in the PFL (10-0) and on a mission to three-peat. The two-time PFL champion and four-time All-American wrestler from Ohio State has leveraged his superior wrestling skills to control fights, and a move to training with Mark Henry has already resulted in improved striking, which was on display in his knockout victory over Luis Rafael Laurentino at PFL 5.
Natan Schulte (Brazil), 2019 and 2018 PFL Lightweight World Champion: Brazilian Schulte earned back-to-back lightweight titles following a championship win over Tajikistan’s Loik Radzhabov, in what many consider to be one of the best MMA fights of 2019. Undefeated in the PFL (9-0-1), the Brazilian is looking to make history and cement himself as a top ten lightweight in MMA.
Ray Cooper III (USA), 2019 PFL Welterweight World Champion: Hawaiian KO artist Ray Cooper III is one of the most feared fighters in the PFL. Cooper found redemption in 2019, returning to the championship and earning his first career MMA title in true “Brudda Man” fashion – a KO. PFL newcomer Rory MacDonald enters the welterweight division in 2020 with a championship pedigree and major wins over the likes of Nate Diaz, B.J. Penn, Tyron Woodley and Douglas Lima. Cooper has already stated he’d like to face MacDonald to open the season, showing he’s up for any challenge to his title.
Emiliano Sordi (Argentina), 2019 PFL Light Heavyweight World Champion: Emiliano Sordi capped off a dominant PFL season with a first-round TKO of Jordan Johnson to become the first MMA champion hailing from Argentina. Sordi exploded on the scene in 2019, winning all five fights by stoppage (4 KOs, 1 submission), the last four of which came in the first round. Sordi is known for his fan-favourite, all-or-nothing fighting style that has led to all 18 of his career victories coming via early stoppage.
Ali Isaev (Russia), 2019 PFL Heavyweight World Champion: Ali Isaev caught the attention of the MMA world by making an improbable championship run, winning the 2019 PFL heavyweight title and million-dollar prize. In the PFL heavyweight semi-finals, Isaev defeated fellow Russian and #1 seed Denis Goltsov, securing a knockout with one-second left in the fight. In the championship, Isaev knocked out Jared Rosholt. The former Olympic freestyle wrestler has three wins by knockout, displaying a versatility in the cage that will make him tough to beat in 2020.