Eddie Gordon heads into his Professional Fighters League debut on Thursday secure in the fact that he does not need mixed martial arts. “I don’t have to fight at the moment,” he said. “I fight because I love it.” His zest for competition will take him to PFL 3 at the GWU Smith Center in Washington, D.C., where the 34-year-old hopes to prove he still has much to offer the sport.
For the author and motivational speaker, MMA has become a personal passion and not just a career. The sport may not be his primary revenue source, but “The Ultimate Fighter 19” winner seems to understand his value.
“I know what I can bring to the table as a fighter,” Gordon said.
The World Series of Fighting had developed a poor reputation prior to an ownership change and subsequent PFL rebranding. Such issues gave Gordon pause, but he decided to join the promotion after a long conversation with Professional Fighters League President Ray Sefo.
“I learned to always do your due diligence,” he said. “I felt like it was a good fit.”
The sailing has not always been smooth. Before and after Gordon agreed to link arms with the PFL, he was offered opportunities to fight for other organizations. He turned down those offers but started to regret his decision after the scheduled start of the PFL season came and went.
“It was delayed three, four, five, six months,” Gordon said. “I was kicking myself because I thought it wasn’t going to happen.”
However, the Serra-Longo Fight Team rep stayed the course and waited for the PFL to deliver on its promises, which included $1 million in prize money to a tournament winner in each weight class. Sefo rewarded the New York-based Jamaica native’s patience, called with an official start date and sent him his contract. Given the PFL’s point-based format, Gordon felt it was an opportunity worth waiting for.
“Not many professional fighters are able to make a million dollars in less than six months,” he said. “It’s a life-changing opportunity.”
With the wheels now officially in motion, the PFL has done right by its fighters in Gordon’s view. In fact, the league flew its international roster of competitors to Florida for a fighter summit a few months ago. The meet-and-greet with ownership instilled renewed confidence in the Matt Serra and Ray Longo protégé. “They literally laid out everything for us,” Gordon said. This concerted effort to build camaraderie within the ranks even included one-on-one meetings with ownership, whereupon there was an understanding that fighters would have a direct line to their bosses. “We all got their cellphone numbers,” Gordon said, “so there is no middle man, no gatekeeper.” The fighter-friendly approach left a positive impression on Gordon. “They’re really taking care of all the fighters,” he said. “Not just the top dogs eat.”
Gordon appreciates the path the PFL has taken. However, he maintains that the promotion needs him as much as he needs it and wishes more fighters felt the way he does.
“Without the fighters, there is no promotion,” Gordon said. “I don’t care if you’re Bellator, UFC, One [Championship], Ring of Combat … it doesn’t matter. I know my worth. I think that’s the biggest problem we have in MMA is a lot of these fighters don’t understand their value [and] don’t understand what they bring to the table.”
The PFL format gives it the feel of a real professional sports league, according to Gordon. He thinks this continued evolution will lead to fighters prioritizing being in the Ultimate Fighting Championship less and instead turning to a wages-first mentality.
“You want to be famous or you want to take care of your family?” Gordon asked.
The former Ring of Combat champion enters his first fight in nearly two years comfortable with the choice he made. In his way stands Shamil Gamzatov, an opponent he calls “well-rounded” and “tough.” However, Gordon does not feel Gamzatov has been sufficiently tested to this point in his career, be it in fights or during training sessions with elite fighters like onetime UFC middleweight titleholder Chris Weidman. He plans to extend the undefeated 27-year-old beyond his bounds.
“Dude’s from Dagestan, so you know he’s tough,” Gordon said. “[In] a lot of his fights, he’s the hammer; he’s never been the nail. He’s never been pushed to the limits.”
Gordon expects to drag Gamzatov into uncharted territory and set off some belated holiday fireworks in the process: “We are going to kick off this Fourth of July weekend with a bang.”