Canada’s Olivier Aubin-Mercier is on the cusp of something few fighters will ever manage in MMA — earning a million dollars inside the cage.
Headed to the PFL’s 2022 lightweight final, “The Canadian Gangster” will face fellow UFC ex-pat Stevie Ray later this fall. A million dollars, and the PFL title, will be on the line, and should OAM win it all, it would make all the sense in the world for the league to make a push into Canada, where it has not been seen since the WSOF days.
“Yeah for sure. I think if I win, I think it would be a very smart thing to do,” Aubin-Mercier told Cageside Press in a recent exclusive interview. The Canadian lightweight then dropped a little bombshell. “Now, I don’t think I’m going to do the next season, but let’s see when I get there.”
Skipping out on the tournament next year seems unthinkable, given Aubin-Mercier’s success of late. He has not lost a fight since parting ways with the UFC in 2019, and is 5-0 under the PFL banner. But he has his reasons for considering pulling out of the league format.
“We’ll see how I feel next year. I mean I’m getting older, I’m 33 years old, so I’m going to see how I feel. For an athlete, it’s getting old,” noted Aubin-Mercier. “I got some injuries this year.”
The schedule involved in the season format is another factor. Four fights from regular reason to playoffs. “I fought two times in like four months,” pointed out OAM. “We don’t have a lot of breaks. So I’m going to see, I’m going to talk to the PFL. I’m going to see my opportunities after this season, and if it makes sense, I’m going to do another season, but if it doesn’t, I won’t do it. Because for me, to be honest, if I win this year I’m going to be happy with myself.”
There has been talk that 2023 will bring about super-fights and PPV cards for the PFL, with promotional darling Kayla Harrison in particular looking to move away from the season format and take the biggest fights.
“Well I’m not Kayla Harrison, so I don’t think I have the name to do that kind of stuff,” Aubin-Mercier admitted. He would, however, like to stay with the league. “I would like to finish my career with PFL. Like I said, I really like them, they’re really nice to me, they’re really nice with their athletes. They made some mistakes this year with the match-ups, but other than that I think they’re truly great people and they want the best for us, and they want the best for themselves too. I think it’s a good give-and-give, my relationship with them.”
The “mistakes” Aubin-Mercier referred to was something he was critical about earlier this season. It stemmed from Anthony Pettis apparently getting special treatment, with his fights shifted to different cards, and from the PFL matching up fighters haphazardly.
The Canadian’s criticism came from a good place, he believes. “I want PFL really to be one of the biggest promotions in the world. I think it would be unfair of me not to say it when I see something that I think they do wrong. I think I was vocal about it, but I don’t think I was being disrespectful,” he explained. “So I was vocal but still trying to be okay with that. And I think they understood, you know?”
“I didn’t really understand why all the winners didn’t fight all the losers. I think that should be like this every time,” he added. After all, that tends to be the case in most sporting tournaments, and is only fair. “I think the winners should have a better chance to do it. So it made no sense in my mind that the winners were fighting each other. I think they deserve to fight the losers. If two winners fight each other, one of them won’t make the playoffs.”
According to Aubin-Mercier, he wasn’t alone in that thinking. “I think other fighters were feeling the same,” he stated. He also felt sympathy for his upcoming opponent, Stevie Ray, who was matched up with Pettis. “I was feeling bad too for Stevie Ray, knowing he had more break between fights, which I think is unfair. But he prevailed, and he was able to do it, so good for him.”
As for Olivier Aubin-Mercier’s recent success, he attributes it to “everything clicking. Some stuff changed. You know how you have a long career, at some point you’re going to peak, and I’m peaking right now. I think that’s the reason why I’ve had so much success the last two years.”
As to what changed, “I’m trying to train smarter, so I don’t spar anymore,” he added. At least “not a lot.”
Olivier Aubin-Mercier will face Stevie Ray in the PFL 2022 Lightweight Championship, expected to take place on November 25, 2022 at a location yet to be announced.