PFL 4’s Taila Santos Says She’d Be “A Little Bit Ashamed” Getting Push Dakota Ditcheva Is

Like many others who were left scratching their heads when the second 2024 regular season match-ups were announced for the PFL’s women’s flyweights, Taila Santos has some concerns. Primarily, those concerns are with Dakota Ditcheva, the organization’s latest promotional darling, who has served as the face of women’s 125 in the PFL essentially since the company introduced the weight class.

Santos (20-3) faces Jena Bishop at the 2024 PFL 4 card on June 13 in Uncasville, CT, and that’s where much of the concern lies. Santos is ranked #2, Bishop #3 in the standings. Ditcheva, ranked #1 based on the league’s point system, is fighting Chelsea Hackett, sitting at #7 after being finished by Bishop in April.

“If the matchmaking was done in a way where, okay, everybody that has the most points fights whoever has the least amount of points, okay, that’s fair,” Santos told Cageside Press in an exclusive interview ahead of PFL 4. “The problem is, everybody else that earned the six points, or the most points, are facing each other, and she’s the only one that isn’t. She’s the only one that is getting someone that got finished in the first round.”

Santos, a former UFC title challenger, is not alone in her concerns. Bishop, her opponent, and teammate Angela Hill, a UFC strawweight, immediately jumped on this rather odd matchmaking from the outset. While the PFL’s playoff format is based on rankings, its regular season bookings have always been haphazard at best.

“It is there for anybody to see. You can judge the way that you want to, but it’s right there,” noted Santos. “I don’t know how she [Ditcheva] feels about it, but if it was me getting that push, that extra little bit of help, I would be a little bit ashamed because everybody else is grinding their way to the top, and she’s almost getting a bye. But that’s not up to me to discuss. If that’s what the promotion wants to do, okay, that’s the image that they want to show the fans.”

To be completely transparent, Santos is not exactly an unbiased commentator when it comes to Ditcheva. The pair have exchanged words through the press, with Ditcheva critical of the Brazilian’s loss to current UFC contender Erin Blanchfield.

“That’s the thing. I think Dakota needed to defend herself to some extent, and that’s why she tried to- I guess Erin was the only target she could find,” Santos said in response to that criticism. That fight, in August of 2023, was to be her last in the UFC. “Because let’s be honest, she never fought anybody to the level of Erin Blanchfield. That’s just the reality. Dakota might be very good, she might get to the top at some point, but she’s still untested. The people that she fought so far, still nobody that is really at a level where you can say ‘okay, this girl is for real and she’s going to be a champ.'”

Blanchfield represents one of just three losses on Taila Santos record. The others came to Mara Romero Borella, and Valentina Shevchenko, the latter in a title fight that many feel Santos won. “She could have said something about my fight with Valentina, but no, she chose the one with Erin. That’s fine. She is probably going to make it to the- well she’s going to make it through the tournament because that’s what the promotion wants, but once she gets there, I have a feeling she’s going to get a reality check, be it in my hands or one of the more experienced girls. She has yet to fight someone to the level of the better ones that are in the tournament.”

As for Jena Bishop, it’s clear where her strengths are, given she’s a decorated BJJ black belt. Still, Santos is comfortable going to the ground if need be. “Honestly I’m very comfortable where ever the fight goes. She might be dangerous on the ground, but that doesn’t mean I can’t hang with her on the ground. We’re going to see how the fight plays out. I think this is more of a fight of me imposing my will and imposing my game, then reacting to what she does well.”

Watch our full interview with PFL 4’s Taila Santos above.