Back for PFL Season Two, Rakim Cleveland Ready to Fix Mistakes and Win $1M Prize

By Cole Shelton Jun 3, 2019
The Professional Fighters League changed the landscape of MMA last year. They introduced a format similar to the stick and ball sports with a regular season and playoffs. Whoever won each division was awarded a million dollars. It was an intriguing prize that got many fighters over to the new organization.

One of the fighters in the light heavyweight division is Rakim Cleveland. Last season he was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs and spent the next few months focusing on what he has to improve on. After re-upping with PFL for this season, he is eager to fix those mistakes.

"I can't pass up a big opportunity like this. To have a second chance for a million dollars. I took big strides to make myself a more complete mixed martial artist. So I can't wait to showcase it," Cleveland said to Sherdog.com. "The time I have been off, I had a lot of time to revamp a lot of things that were holes last season."

He is set to fight this Thursday when he takes on Viktor Nemkov. It will be a tough first fight for "The Boogeyman" but he wouldn't have it any other way. But, he is more than confident in his skills to get the win and start out year two on the right foot.

"I think it will look good on my end. Viktor is a very good fighter, well-rounded," he explained. "He likes to strike a lot. I've been working a lot on counteracting the things he is good. I think it is similar to a few fights I've had in my career."

Meanwhile, something Cleveland also likes is the fact that the points reset and he doesn't have to worry about last year. He's now just focused on Nemkov and showing how much better he has gotten since last October.

"It is nice. Last season was my first time fighting on a high-level show like I've been fighting on the regional scenes. I got comfortable there," he said. "It gives me an opportunity to be more fine-tuned and get used to the media being here. That process was throwing me off a little bit. Now, I am more comfortable and it won't impact me being under the bright lights."

Add in the fact he has PFL experience already, and Cleveland believes he will have much better success than last season. The way the point system works is you get more points for a finish, so last season, "The Boogeyman" spent too much time worrying about the finish and not fighting his fight which ended up costing him. This time around, he won't make that same mistake. "You want an early finish, but trying to force a finish makes you lose a fight," he said. "So you want to perform your best. Just fight your fight."

In the end, Cleveland is looking forward to Thursday and fighting Nemkov. He believes if the Russian only uses strikes against him it will be a long night for him. He believes he has more power and will be the one to still be standing on his feet. But, the 30-year-old is prepared for all aspects of the fight and is ready.

"Last year I didn't show my ground game and how good it actually is. I made mental errors last year that costed me," Cleveland said. "Being well-rounded is very important. You don't want to be a fish out of water in any aspect because you will get exposed. These guys are good."

Ready or not, Cleveland is ready to show he will be the one everyone is coming after.

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