The 2019 Professional Fighters League (PFL) season concluded with a historic 2019 PFL World Championship event on New Year’s Eve at Madison Square Garden on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. Kayla Harrison added more gold to her collection, lifting the first-ever women’s lightweight title belt following a dominating unanimous decision victory over Larissa Pacheco.
Emiliano Sordi earned his fifth early stoppage win of the season to become the first MMA champion hailing from Argentina. Lance Palmer and Nathan Schulte earned back-to-back featherweight and lightweight championships respectively. Ray Cooper III found redemption after losing in the 2018 welterweight championship, while Ali Isaev completed a perfect PFL season with a heavyweight championship winning performance.
“PFL continues to change the game, crowning six world champions in one historic night at Madison Square Garden before the ball dropped in Times Square,” said Peter Murray, CEO of the PFL. “With the PFL’s season-format, fighters control their own destiny. It’s all about winning, and these six fighters proved to the world that they are the best in the business and worthy of being called champions.”
“These fighters left it all out in the cage tonight in front of a raucous Madison Square Garden crowd,” said Ray Sefo, PFL head of fighter operations. “We started with 68 fighters, and ended with six champions who earned this moment by winning in the cage. It was a truly historic and memorable night for our champions and fights fans around the world.”
Kayla Harrison becomes first-ever PFL women's lightweight champion
Kayla Harrison defeated Larissa Pacheco by unanimous decision to win the first-ever PFL women’s lightweight title and the million-dollar prize. Harrison, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo, earned her first career MMA title and continued her unbeaten run to start her pro MMA career (7-0). Harrison controlled the fight with her superior grappling skills, throwing Pacheco to the mat multiple times en route to the win. Boxing legend Mike Tyson wrapped the PFL title belt around Harrison’s waist after the decision was announced.
Ray Cooper stops David Michaud to claim welterweight title
The welterweight championship between Ray Cooper III and David Michaud wasn't expected to go the full five rounds, and Cooper didn't disappoint, connecting with a punch to the body in the second that knocked Michaud to the ground. He continued his assault until the referee was forced to step in. After falling in the championship last season, Cooper sought and found redemption, lifting the welterweight title and million-dollar check in the center of the cage.
Lance Palmer wins third fight this year with Alex Gilpin to repeat as featherweight champion
In a trilogy fight, Lance Palmer once again defeated Alex Gilpin to repeat as PFL featherweight champion and earn another million-dollar payday. Palmer used his superior wrestling skills to grind his way to a unanimous decision victory. Palmer survived an early scare, as Gilpin nearly locked in a guillotine choke in the first. He managed to escape, and controlled the remainder of the fight from the ground. Palmer extended his winning streak to 11 and earned his second straight perfect season in the PFL (5-0 in back-to-back seasons).
Natan Schulte wins back-to-back PFL lightweight titles
Natan Schulte was also able to repeat as PFL lightweight champion following a unanimous decision victory over Loik Radzhabov. Schulte completed a perfect 2019 season (5-0) and is now unbeaten in all 10 of his PFL fights (9-0-1). In an action-packed, high-paced fight, both fighters charged at each other for five-rounds, exchanging vicious leg kicks and powerful punches. Schulte wore Radzhabov down and heavy blows took its toll on the Tajikistan fighter.
Ali Isaev pummels Jared Rosholt to claim PFL heavyweight title
In a heavyweight championship battle, Ali Isaev defeated Jared Rosholt by fourth-round TKO to win the 2019 PFL heavyweight title and $1 million. Isaev completed a perfect PFL season (5-0), ending with two straight knockouts to claim the crown. Isaev, a 2008 Olympian in freestyle wrestling, moves his undefeated MMA record to 9-0.
Emiliano Sordi's first-round finish makes him a light heavyweight millionaire
Light heavyweight Emiliano Sordi became the first millionaire of the night, completing an undefeated 2019 season in spectacular fashion. Entering the championship match against Jordan Johnson, all four of his victories came by finish. The trend continued with a TKO at 2:01 of the first-round, as Sordi took Johnson down to the mat and rained down punches until the referee stepped in and stopped the fight. Sordi is the first MMA champion from Argentina.