PFL 7: Rob Wilkinson Upset Antonio Carlos Junior Withdrew From Season, But Looking Forward To Facing Him In 2023

Rob Wilkinson, PFL 4 2022
Rob Wilkinson, PFL 4 2022 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Alex Behunin/Cageside Press

Rob Wilkinson was looking forward to fighting 2022 champion, Antonio Carlos Junior, in this year’s PFL post-season.

What a year it has been for Wilkinson. After struggling to find fights on the Australian regional scene, “Razor” made a huge splash in the 2022 PFL light heavyweight season by knocking out his two opponents and claiming the coveted No. 1 seed.

The 30-year-old started his season by knocking out Bruce Souto and followed that up by knocking out Viktor Pesta in the first round.

Wilkinson enjoyed his PFL debut the most of the two wins because it was a long time coming.

“I think I was most excited from the first fight just because, you know, I was finally able to show that I kind of deserve to be on the big screen, a big promotion like PFL. It had been a long time since I was released by the UFC, and it was a long journey to try and get back,” Wilkinson told Cageside Press in an exclusive interview recently. “It was so hard to fight back home in Australia. I wasn’t getting matched up with anyone, and I ended up taking quite a few kickboxing fights and boxing matches to keep active, to keep improving on my striking, which is what was lacking. And then, you know, it was a year since I had an MMA fight when I went into the PFL. So it was just such a good feeling to get that win, as you could probably see by screaming after the fight. So that meant a lot to me.”

“But my best performance, I felt, was the second fight. Just having that kind of back-to-back fight made me much more composed and relaxed out there,” Wilkinson continued. “The first fight kind of felt like it was one of your first professional fights- because of the adrenaline dump and the big rush. That’s kind of what it was like in the first fight; I couldn’t even hear my corner talking to me at all. It was just like, everything was going very quickly. In the second fight, I was very composed, very relaxed, and heard my coaches perfectly.”

Wilkinson is one fight away from fighting for the $1 million dollar prize and PFL light heavyweight championship. He faces fellow knockout artist Delan Monte in the semi-finals. However, the Australian is upset he won’t fight last year’s champion.

“I thought I was the favorite [to win the season] from the start. I’m just kind of proving that as I go along. I got that number one position leading into the semifinals, and I’m going to keep showing that I’m the number one fighter in each fight,” Wilkinson said. “I am upset that Antonio Carlos Junior is out of the season, though, because I would have loved to fight him in the finals. I think you always kind of want to fight the champion to become the champion. Beat the best to be the best. So, it’s a shame that he got injured, but I’m sure I’ll see him again next year, and this time he will be coming to get his championship back from me.”

Wilkinson vs. Monte goes down this Friday at PFL 7 on ESPN.