David Michaud will debut as a member of the Professional Fighters League roster on May 9 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. The 10-year veteran welcomes the opportunity to call the promotion his long-term home after a post-Ultimate Fighting Championship run that saw him bounce around several different organizations in search of the right deal.
“It was tough,” Michaud told Sherdog.com, recounting his 2015 release from the UFC. “I thought about it [often], but you can’t dwell on things like that.”
Even though he has moved on mentally, frustration comes through in his voice when he speaks about his three-fight stint with the Las Vegas-based promotion. The South Dakota native lost two of his three bouts inside the Octagon, sandwiching defeats to Olivier Aubin-Mercier and Jingliang Li around a unanimous decision victory over Garrett Whiteley. He believes an ill-advised weight cut left him with diminished abilities.
“I made a mistake and I tried to go down to 155 [pounds],” Michaud said. “I didn’t really carry my strength [and] speed. I didn’t really carry any of my athleticism down with me. At ’55, I was kind of big, but I wasn’t athletic anymore.”
After parting ways with the UFC, Michaud returned to the welterweight division and proceeded to win six of his next eight bouts. The change in weight class and the growth in his overall game -- molded by training alongside a number of upper-echelon fighters at the MMA Lab -- has fostered a belief that he is a much different fighter than the one who was jettisoned from the UFC.
“I’m definitely way better,” Michaud said, “just better everywhere.”
Despite a consistent run of success outside the UFC, Michaud never put down roots with a particular promotion. He competed in six different organizations -- Legacy Fighting Alliance, Bellator MMA and Combate Americas among them -- across his last eight appearances. Michaud could not see the LFA as a long-term option, and Bellator’s offers were never to his liking, even though he had a desire to remain with the company.
“After the fight [at Bellator 204], I [told Bellator decision-makers], ‘If you guys want to make a deal, let’s make a deal. You’ve got a lot of welterweights I’d be happy to fight,’ but a decent offer just never came,” he said. “I just wasn’t getting offered enough money to not be a free agent.”
Combate Americas offered him a fair rate, though the lack of a legitimate welterweight division prompted him to look elsewhere.
“When I fought for Combate, I actually got paid more than I did for Bellator,” Michaud said. “I wasn’t really in their plans.”
When the PFL came calling, his hopes were high, as he had heard positive feedback about the league from friend and teammate Johnny Case. “Hollywood” joined the league in 2018 as a short-notice replacement to face Jason High. While High ended up missing weight, Case was still paid his show and win bonuses despite the bout being nixed. The fighter-friendly move impressed Case and Michaud. “He said everything about PFL was just great whenever he was with them,” Michaud said. Even before Case’s experience with the league, Michaud had followed the first season and respected the talent on the roster. Armed with the knowledge of the “good money” being offered by the PFL and what he knew of the treatment of its fighters, Michaud and his team felt the league was the opportunity for which he had been searching.
“I was talking with my manager [and] my coaches, and we felt like PFL would be the best fit for me,” he said. “You’re fighting pretty good guys for really good money, and that’s what I’m here for -- to try and make a living. It’s the place to be. It’s great to be a part of something like that, where guys are getting paid to be a part of that [and] have that chance to make some good money [and] be able to put something away while being treated as a high-level professional athlete. There’s nothing better.
“I’ve been fighting for a long time, and I’ve never really had a chance to make money like this,” Michaud added. “[Few] have a chance to make money like this, unless you’re a big star, really well-known or a good talker.”
Michaud’s journey to the million-dollar prize will begin in May inside perhaps the PFL’s toughest weight class. The welterweight division will return 2018 tournament champion Magomed Magomedkerimov and runner-up Ray Cooper III. Meanwhile, several competitors from the shuttered 185-pound class plan to move down, including 2018 middleweight tournament champion Louis Taylor. The 5-foot-9 Michaud in his PFL debut will be tested by one of those aforementioned middleweights: 6-foot-3 tournament semifinalist Sadibou Sy, who enters their match with an 11-inch reach advantage. Although Michaud admits facing a much bigger opponent figures to be difficult, he believes Sy has failed against shorter opposition in the past and points to his two encounters with the 5-foot-9 Bruno Santos, one of them a draw and the other a loss, as evidence.
Sy has never fought below 185 pounds before, and Michaud thinks the weight cut could pose problems for the Superior Challenge veteran.
“Sometimes, whenever you’re making those huge cuts … I mean, it’s not healthy,” Michaud said. “It’s not healthy for your body. You’re really dehydrating yourself.”
Michaud believes the $1 million pot of gold at the end of the PFL’s 2019 rainbow has his name written on it. As such, motivation has not been an issue.
“It’s mine to win,” Michaud said. “I’ve just got to get out there and do what I’ve got to do. I feel like I’m well-rounded, and not everyone in the field is as well-rounded as me. I feel like this is just my time.”