The PFL just wrapped up its 2022 season, but 2023 is fast approaching, and the welterweight match-ups for next year’s Challenger Series have been officially announced.
In a press release issued Wednesday, league officials unveiled the four welterweight fights, which will be topped by Lucas Barbosa vs. Itso Babulaidze. The 2023 PFL Challenger Series will run across eight events from January 27 to March 17, airing live on Fubo Sports Network.
Welterweights are expected to kick off the season.
Competitors on each PFL Challenger Series card have a chance at securing a spot in the Professional Fighters League’s regular season — in turn affording them the opportunity to compete for one million dollars.
For Barbosa (2-1), the Challenger Series will mark his return to mixed martial arts for the first time since 2012. The Brazilian is a grappling champion, however, winning the IBJJF World Championship in both Gi and No-Gi categories in multiple years, while taking first place at several other competitions.
Babulaidze (2-0) is a Georgian who made his promotional debut for the PFL earlier this year, knocking out Mahmoud Fawzy Sebie.
The recently signed Quemuel Ottoni (12-3) will also appear on the Challenger Series this year, and one name on his record will stand out to fight fans. Brazil’s Ottoni is the only man to defeat current UFC middleweight champion Alex Pereira in MMA, submitting the kickboxer in his mixed martial arts debut in 2015.
Ottoni will take on Jozef Wittner (16-2).
“The 2023 PFL Challenger Series provides world class talent a path to the PFL,” said PFL President of Fighter Operations Ray Sefo, in Wednesday’s press release. “The Challenger Series continues the PFL’s commitment to finding the best talent in MMA around the world.”
The full line-up of welterweight match-ups on the 2023 Challenger Series breaks down as follows:
- Lucas Barbosa vs. Itso Babulaidze
- Eric Alequin vs. Thad Jean
- Quemuel Ottoni vs. Jozef Wittner
- Mostafa Rashed Neda vs. Nicholas Alley