To close out 2018, many mixed martial arts outfits went a little crazy with their year-end shows. The UFC up and moved a whole pay-per-view event from Las Vegas to Los Angeles on a week’s notice after discovering that Nevada wouldn’t license its primary draw, Jon Jones. Rizin, Japan’s big MMA promotion, paid Floyd Mayweather an absurd amount of money—$9 million, to believe Floyd’s humblebrag—to put a beating on the undersized, under-experienced Tenshin Nasukawa in a boxing match. Why would a Japanese promotion do that to a burgeoning Japanese star? Well, to enjoy combat sports is to not ask too many questions.
Meanwhile the smaller Professional Fighters League utilized a Cinderella trick by turning six ordinary 1099 fighters into millionaires. The PFL caught the darling treatment in the MMA media ranks for rewarding its championship-winning fighters—mostly castoffs, second-chancers, mercenaries, last-go MMA veterans, and a few scattered up-and-comers who’d navigated the PFL’s inaugural “season”—so handsomely. Not only did the PFL send out a smoke signal for fighters looking to cash in in 2019, it made prizefighting feel like college basketball with payouts.