In a controversial move that has left fighters and fans alike bewildered, the PFL has suspended Raush Manfio and Natan Schulte following their lackluster fight last Friday night. The decision has been met with outrage and disappointment from both athletes, who have been penalized despite their long-standing friendship and training partnership.
The PFL's choice to suspend the fighters effectively nullified the bout, replacing Schulte with Shane Burgos for the upcoming 2023 PFL playoffs. For Schulte, this means he loses the opportunity to compete for the coveted $1 million prize that comes with becoming the season's champion.
Expressing his discontent on Twitter, Schulte not only voiced his frustration with the decision but also called on former UFC champion Francis Ngannou to take a stand. Ngannou recently signed a lucrative deal with the PFL, securing a spot on the PFL Athlete Advisory Board, granting him a voice in the promotion's decision-making process.
Manfio's manager, Brian Butler of Suckerpunch Entertainment, issued a statement denouncing the PFL's punitive actions against his fighter. Butler criticized the promotion's subjective decision, particularly since it prides itself on advocating for fighters' rights. He highlighted that judges frequently make erroneous calls without facing such severe repercussions.
“To make a subjective decision like this from a promoter that stakes its claim in fighter advocacy is just a bad look, in my opinion,” Butler said in a statement sent to MMA Fighting. “Judges make bad calls all the time with less repercussion. Raush and Natan are best friends and have been exclusive training partners for each other for years. Natan is the godfather of Raush’s daughter. To say they know each other’s styles, tricks and techniques inside and out is a gross understatement.
“Situations like bad style matchups and lackluster fights happen in this sport all the time but the unique thing about the PFL and the ‘tournament/point format’ is that it would sort itself out on its own in the end. Our client got half his pay and zero points to move forward in the tournament. This is distasteful and unnecessary.”
The Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission, to which inquiries were made about the fight, has yet to respond. While the legitimacy of the fight is not in question, the PFL's ruling appears arbitrary. The promotion controls the playoff format and has chosen to include Burgos, despite his initial failure to accumulate enough points to qualify.
Burgos, a high-profile free agent signing with a UFC background, now finds himself in contention for the $1 million prize while Schulte is left sidelined, eliminated from the season.
The PFL's decision has sparked widespread backlash, as fans and insiders alike question the promotion's handling of the situation.
With its unique tournament-style format, the PFL was designed to allow the sport to regulate itself, ensuring that the best fighters rise to the top. However, the suspension of Manfio and Schulte disrupts this process and raises doubts about the promotion's commitment to fairness and transparency.
As the fallout continues, it remains to be seen how the PFL will address the mounting criticism and whether any changes will be implemented to rectify what many perceive as an unjust outcome.
One thing is certain: the debate surrounding the suspension of Manfio and Schulte will continue to reverberate within the MMA community, casting a shadow over the PFL's reputation as a fighter-friendly organization.