The grind of the PFL season is not easy for fighters, and lightweight $1 million hopeful Olivier Aubin-Mercier believes it’s the toughest challenge in the entire sport.
The structure of the season will see the finalists compete in four fights in a manner of months. Last year, the lightweight champion Raush Manfio competed in his first bout of the season at 2021 PFL 1 on April 23 and was crowned champion in the finals on October 27 in his fourth fight, with about two months between each appearance. Aubin-Mercier only fought twice, at 2021 PFL 4 and 2021 PFL 7, and found the schedule tough to deal with.
This year, however, Aubin-Mercier (13-5) adjusted his approach and believes the experience of the 2021 season will help him excel as he prepares to step inside the cage against Natan Schulte (21-4-1) to kick off the new season at 2022 PFL 1 in Arlington, Texas.
“I was really surprised how fast the fights were going at last year,” Aubin-Mercier said at Monday’s media day. “I did a fight, even though I missed the first one, I did that fight and then I fought maybe two months after or something like this and I really found it really, really hard. So, I know I have to be different this year.
“I think the first training camp, it should be hard, but the other three training camps, if you go to the final, it should be smarter. … I don’t think you can do a big training camp every single fight because you have probably some injury every fight. So we have to heal, you have to stay in shape, but not push your body too much. Stay on the weight – I think it’s going to be really, really hard.”
During his 12-fight run with the UFC, Aubin-Mercier fought no more than three times in a calendar year. He did it twice in 2016 and 2018, but the shortest time between any two bouts was just over three and a half months.
“Probably the hardest sport event in MMA right now, well maybe any sport right now, to be honest,” Aubin-Mercier said. “I mean, UFC for sure they are the level, but they don’t fight four times in nine months unless you’re freaking Khamzat (Chimaev). So yeah, I think I’m gonna need this experience and I think I know now.”