The Professional Fighters League will stage its second event of the 2018 season on Thursday in Chicago, having put together a lineup featuring lightweights and light heavyweights. Ronny Markes meets fellow Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Sean O'Connell in one of the matchups at 205 pounds.
When the World Series of Fighting was rebranded as the PFL, it completely changed its format. No longer are events based around tournaments. Instead, the organization introduced an approach familiar to all sports fans: a point-based regular season followed by playoffs. Markes likes the new format. The Brazilian boasts 11 finishes among his 18 career wins and feels it encourages entertaining action.
“I think it’s good because everybody will try to finish the fights quick,” Markes said.
The PFL scoring system favors ambitious fighters who try to end bouts early. A win nets fighters three points, with draws earning them one. However, each round offers additional points for a finish: three in the first, two in the second and one in the third. The ability to secure quick stoppages and remain healthy figures to factor into the postseason configuration.
Each fighter will compete twice during the regular season, with the top eight in each division moving on to the playoffs. The regular-season standings will determine seeding, with the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds taking place on the same night. There were several first-round finishes at PFL 1 on June 7, and Markes has designs on doing the same: “100 percent I will stop this fight in the first round.”
O’Connell has not competed in some 18 months, having left the UFC on a three-fight losing streak. Markes respects the man who will be standing across from him at PFL 2 but carries a newfound self-belief into the bout. The 30-year-old has gone 4-4 over his last eight appearances, though two of those defeats were to Yoel Romero and Thiago Santos in the UFC.
“I’ve trained for a lot of big names and I trained very good for these guys,” Markes said, “but in my fights, I didn’t fight good.”
The onetime Nova Uniao representative changed gyms recently and credits PFL President of Fighter Operations Ray Sefo for the improvements he has made in the standup department. Markes views the PFL season as a potential turning point in his career.
“I think the next fight is a big step for me because I feel more like myself,” he said.
Of course, every fighter competing under the PFL banner wants to lock down a spot in the playoffs, with a $1 million payday awaiting the eventual winners in each weight class. Markes seems to grasp the scope of the possibilities before him.
“You don’t see any promotion in the world that has these opportunities,” he said.
During the television broadcast for PFL 1, commentator Bas Rutten routinely asked winners what they planned to do if they won the million-dollar prize. Markes already has something in mind.
“I’ll invest this money in my family,” he said. “I have a big family. I have a wife, three kids and my mom came to stay with me. I think this million will change my life.”
On a two-fight winning streak, Markes sounds prepared and focused ahead of his battle with O’Connell. He has no hard feelings against the Jeremy Horn protégé and in fact holds him in high regard. Even so, Markes sees the Cottage Grove, Minnesota, native as an obstacle that must be cleared.
“I have a lot of respect for him,” he said, “but this is my time.”