UFC 299 Press Conference
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

The 2024 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday in Detroit, and so in the spirit of the festivities, like we did last year and the year before, the MMA Fighting Crew is back to divvy up the best fighters and biggest stars in the world among the top promotions in combat sports.

If you don’t remember what happened last year, it’s simple: Alexander K. Lee, Damon Martin, Jed Meshew, Mike Heck, and Shaun Al-Shatti all take the reins of one of the top-five promotions in the world, and then draft their choice of fighters to build their franchises around. Once it’s all said and done, the fine readers of MMAFighting.com determine who has assembled the best collection of talent.

We’ve made a couple of small changes this year, so let’s run down the rules very quickly.

  1. Any individual in the MMA world is available to draft. Drafting a fighter will lock them into a 5-year contract with the organization.
  2. Getting a fighter under contract does not mean the fighter has to fight for that organization, they just cannot compete for any other MMA organization. For instance, if you draft Jon Jones, you run the risk of him failing a drug test, getting arrested, or simply not wanting to fight.
  3. The draft will be seven rounds this year (mirroring the NFL draft). At the end of the exercise, any fighter who is undrafted will revert to the company they are currently under contract with.

Last year, the five MMA promotions were BKFC, ONE Championship, PFL, Bellator, and the UFC, with Al-Shatti’s takeover of ONE Championship winning the fan vote (little did they know his roster would underperform while Martin got Sean O’Malley, Ilia Topuria, and Francis Ngannou). And just like last year, we’ve had to shuffle things up again because another MMA promotion has gone the way of the dodo: Bellator might be alive in name, but it’s a PFL joint now, so the co-leader just gets one company for drafting purposes. As a result, KSW received the call to join to big leagues and Martin Lewandowski was only too happy to hand over the managerial reigns to us.

All general managers have been randomly reassigned to new organizations, with Alexander K. Lee taking over KSW, Mike Heck taking over BKFC, Jed Meshew taking over ONE Championship, Shaun Al-Shatti taking over PFL/Bellator, and Damon Martin defending the UFC’s roster. As the new kid on the block, KSW will have the first pick, then BKFC, then ONE Championship, then PFLator, with the UFC will ending each round.

Got it? Good. Let’s get drafting.


UFC 300: Pereira v Hill
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Round 1

KSW: Conor McGregor

Lee: If there’s one thing KSW and its fans appreciate, it’s showmanship. And there’s no bigger one-man show in MMA than Conor McGregor.

Just imagine combining the pomp and pageantry of KSW with the megawatt energy “The Notorious” brings to every event he’s associated with. That’s exactly the formula we need to take the promotion from national institution to global powerhouse. Simply put, he’s the only fighter in the world whose name value guarantees elevation to another level of mainstream recognition.

The No. 1 overall pick for the second year in a row (he went in Round 3 the first time we did this as he was still recovering from a broken leg), McGregor has actually been somewhat of a bust in our drafts as he hasn’t, you know, actually fought. The good news is we know McGregor is booked to fight for real this year, so our matchmakers should have him handy to make at least one company-changing appearance.

KSW: Colosseum 3 in front of 80,000-plus at Croke Park sound good to anyone?

BKFC: Alex Pereira

Heck: Something tells me Jed is going to absolutely love the pick I’m about to make, because make no mistake about it, Alex Pereira is going to make a huge impact for BKFC.

In fact, when “Poatan” fights, BKFC will be known as “Boop Knuckle Fighting Championships,” because that’s exactly what the current UFC light heavyweight champion is going to do without those four-ounce gloves, and it’s going to be spectacular. And unlike the UFC, we’re going to make sure Pereira gets his shine in his home country of Brazil to deliver a performance the Brazilian fans will remember and treasure forever.

Welcome to the team, Mr. Pereira.

ONE Championship: Ilia Topuria

Meshew: I hate Mike Heck so much. I had great and wondrous plans for Pereira. Him vs. Anatoly Malykhin at middleweight, light heavyweight, and cruiserweight promised to be a series of fights that got ONE Championship into everyday conversation. Instead you stole him (AND MY PHRASE!), and for what? So he can boop people without gloves on?

Yeah, OK. I’m actually pretty down for that.

Still, my best laid plans have been blown to smithereens now, and I’m left with the third pick at a dance with only two hotties. Fortunately, the third choice has a wonderful personality to make up for it. He’s young and vivacious, and after semi-recent events, he’s a bona fide star. And unlike Pereira, who is older than the dirt BKFC parking lots are comprised of, Ilia Topuria is still not even in the prime of his career. He’s the sort of blue-chip prospect great franchises are built around.

PFL: Jon Jones

Al-Shatti: After AK led Bellator to ruin over the past year, it’s only fitting for the back-to-back champ of this exercise to return to where it all began in 2022 and resuscitate what is left of a once-glorious franchise. Alas, Showtime MMA may be gone forever (R.I.P.), but in its place has risen a new global force, a new marquee powerhouse — a new MMA co-leader, if you will — and with the combined might of two up-and-coming rosters (plus a whole host of Saudi money), nothing is impossible under this new PFLator regime.

So with that, let us first announce a few slight tweaks to streamline this new vision under the Al-Shatti takeover. First, the PFL name can stay, but it no longer stands for Professional Fighters League. That’s too plain, too nondescript, too generic to resonate as the industry co-leader. Instead, we’re shifting to a name that hearkens back to the days of yore, that leans into the nostalgia of a golden era, that lends itself to the last time a promotion truly challenged the MMA world’s rightful order. Yes, welcome to Pride Fighting League — or “New Pride,” as the kids say these days. (They do, I promise you.) To that, we’re also ditching the season format. It was a novel idea and we appreciate the desire to do something different, but it ultimately didn’t feel as if MMA fans cared much until the very end. In its stead, we’re bringing back a more regular MMA cadence for our cards, interspersed with the occasional one-night or two-night tournament. (The $1 million prizes grand prizes can stay, of course. Leaning into Saudi money.) Lastly, because this is the sport of kings, we’re once again eliminating any manner of drug testing. You and I both know this is for the best.

So with that out of the way, let us begin this new era, this revival of a bygone golden era, by selecting a man many consider to be the greatest active fighter alive today. You’re telling me the presumptive GOAT is available at pick No. 4? Yeah, give me heavyweight Jon Jones.

Congrats, Jon. You’ll never have a drug test in your life again.

UFC: Islam Makhachev

Martin: As the worldwide leader in combat sports, the UFC always ends up playing defense rather than offense in the draft, because everybody wants what we already have. That’s a tough position, but there are still plenty of prime choices to select with our first choice.

Why over-complicate things? The No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world is out there, so Islam Makhachev makes perfect sense to get us started. He’s the most dominant fighter since his friend and mentor Khabib Nurmagomedov retired, and he has potential as a future two-division champion. To add to that, Makhachev has quietly become a pretty good draw, especially with the opportunity to fight in Abu Dhabi or even Saudi Arabia once or twice per year. He’s a perfect foundation to build upon.


Knockout Chaos - Anthony Joshua v Francis Ngannou: Press Conference
Photo by Richard Pelham/Getty Images

Round 2

KSW: Francis Ngannou

Lee: Hold up … did Francis Ngannou just drop into my lap, giving me the first two picks of our past two drafts? Thank you, you stupid, stupid dummies my friends.

I now have the most popular fighter in the UFC and the most popular fighter outside of the UFC both under the KSW umbrella, which is essentially a license to print złoty. After Croke Park, maybe we take the show on the road to Stade de France for Colosseum 4. The possibilities just became endless.

Also, I don’t know if you heard, but Polish MMA fans love heavyweight bouts featuring big, meaty men slapping meat. We can now deliver Ngannou vs. our indomitable champion Phil De Fries, Ngannou vs. THE Mariusz Pudzianowski, and then Ngannou vs. whoever they send to represent the country in weightlifting at this year’s Summer Olympics. Nobody gives the people what they want like us.

BKFC: Max Holloway

Heck: Again, unlike the UFC, BKFC is going to Hawaii for an event, and headlining the historic card will be the man bringing the BMF title to the organization, Max Holloway.

Yes, the man of the hour, the fighter who delivered one of the greatest moments in UFC history, he’ll have a whole new avenue to bring his fan-friendly style of fisticuffs. Just think of what will happen when “Blessed” toes the line to start the fifth round of a fight — if it gets that far — and then points to the canvas without the leather on his fists. The amount of fun BKFC is going to have with Holloway on the roster — and with events in Hawaii — will be extraordinary.

ONE Championship: Sean O’Malley

Meshew: I’ll admit, I was reeling after the first round. Still, I ended up with one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport, a huge star, and a man young enough to carry ONE Championship into the future. The fact that y’all are giving me a second one of those here feels like a steal.

Sean O’Malley is one of the top-10 fighters in the world in our rankings, and one of the top-five fighters in the world in terms of star power. After he dominated Chito Vera at UFC 299, the “Sugar” show is in full effect, and we look forward to introducing him to the billions of potential viewers that ONE has. Frankly, we need some of that, as rumor has it that ONE is in financial dire straits. O’Malley should buy us some breathing room.

On top of that, I’m told by many people that bantamweight is one of the best divisions in all of MMA, and we just got it’s biggest star. Plus, the eventual O’Malley vs. Topuria event broadcast on Amazon Prime will be the biggest event in MMA history.

PFL: Tom Aspinall

Al-Shatti: The front offices here at the PFL came into this year’s draft with one clear directive for these first two rounds: Own the heavyweight division.

In the days of yore, big-boy titans like Fedor Emelianenko, Mirko Cro Cop, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira created seismic events that felt truly special, and that is what we seek to revisit. To that, MMA fans around the world can thank AK for once again ruining the dream of Jones vs. Ngannou, because his selfishness killed off our last chance to see the ultimate heavyweight dream fight of this era. But no matter. There are only three heavyweights who truly carry weight in 2024, and we can still bring two of them together.

Congratulations, Tom Aspinall. That Jon Jones fight you so badly wanted? It’s yours.

The GOAT gets his heavyweight bonafides or England’s own vaults into superstardom with one of the most significant wins of the past 10 years. Either way, the co-leader approves.

UFC: Israel Adesanya

Martin: He may not be a champion right now, but Israel Adesanya is still arguably the second biggest superstar in the sport behind only Conor McGregor. The fact that he’s still available at the end of the second round tells you how much people are sleeping on him after only one loss following a pair of epic wars with Alex Pereira.

Adesanya can headline his own pay-per-views and he still has the ability to fight across two divisions. Easy pickup, especially with the chance to travel to Africa and put on a massive card there as we continue to dominate globally.


UFC 299: Poirier v Saint Denis
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Round 3

KSW: Khamzat Chimaev

Lee: I know, I know.

We all keep waiting for that moment when Khamzat Chimaev breaks through and not only becomes a world champion, but proves that he can be a legitimate star on the international level. Khabib Nurmagomedov smeshed his way to the top of the marquee and Chimaev has certainly shown hints that he can follow that playbook.

We’re confident he’s still on track to fulfill that promise. It doesn’t hurt that he already has a hell of a highlight reel, one that will continue to grow with the right booking. And trust us, we know how to build stars better than the UFC or PFLator could dream of doing.

If you thought Chimaev looked like a world-beater inside the octagon, just wait until you see what we can do for him in the KSW cage.

BKFC: Jiri Prochazka

Heck: BKFC already has chaos with every card we bring to our fast-growing audience, but now the chaos factor has jumped up from 10 to samurai-infinity with the addition of one of the most fun fighters in the history of the sport in Jiri Prochazka.

This was a no-brainer for our organization. Adding Prochazka and his propensity to smile more with each time he is hit, only for his damage-delivering meter to increase tenfoldm will be incredible with the gloves removed from his violent hands of fury. We can get right to chapter two of the Pereira-Prochazka story immediately, or we can let it simmer after a couple of bouts each. But it’s going to happen, BKFC fans, and when it does, it will be must-watch television. I’m honored to welcome the newest BKFC samurai into the fold.

ONE Championship: Charles Oliveira

Meshew: Round 3 is the pivot round. Most of the big stars are off the board now, and so instead we’re drafting for need and scheme fit. And I’m not sure any fighter out there would be a better fit for ONE than the former UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira.

We at ONE pride ourselves on not just our MMA champions, but on providing great fights all across the vast tapestry of combat sports. Oliveira fits that bill nicely, as he can come in and compete with out lightweight (and even welterweight) fighters, and slot in amid the best grapplers ONE has to offer as well. (Mike) Heck, the man can even show off his kickboxing chops of he wants.

This is a perfect pick for ONE. We get a top fighter who can play multiple positions, is wildly exciting, and, frankly, probably needs a change of scenery anyway. I love what we’re building in Singapore.

PFL: Dustin Poirier

Al-Shatti: At a certain point, you just can’t avoid an obvious pick if it’s staring you straight in the face, and I’m frankly stunned a legend as beloved and fan-friendly as “The Diamond” is still available this deep into the draft.

Poirier is an instant star who lends legitimacy to PFL’s lightweight division and can help give the rub to homegrown talents Usman Nurmagomedov, A.J. McKee, and Aaron Pico. Throw in the possibility for fun fights against the likes of Anthony Pettis, Brendan Loughnane, Clay Collard, and the Pitbull brothers, and there’s no shortage of ways Poirier benefits the vision we’re crafting for the MMA co-leader. We just snagged a built-in headliner who makes Fight of the Year lists with regularity and turns any weekend he’s a part of into must-see TV.

Not bad.

UFC: Shavkat Rakhmonov

Martin: A top contender in the rankings but a future champion in our hearts, Shavkat Rakhmonov is a steal for a third rounder, especially given the hype and attention this man has received since making his UFC debut. He’s a human trash-compactor who shreds his competition with a remarkable 100-percent finishing rate in 18 career fights.

Rakhmonov appears destined for greatness in the near future, and cementing him as the anchor for the welterweight division just seems like the best possible selection right here. It’s not a matter of if, but rather when Rakhmonov finally become the No. 1 fighter in the world — and given his trajectory, a top pound-for-pound spot isn’t out of the question either!


UFC 300: Holm v Harrison
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Round 4

KSW: Anatoly Malykhin

Lee: Ouch. Seeing Prochazka drawn into the lawless, brutal land of bare-knuckle boxing hurts my soul, if only because I had dreams of bringing the Czech star back home to our neighbors in the south. Not to mention his brand of chaos belongs in KSW.

With our plans for world domination still in mind, we pivot to Russian multi-division threat Anatoly Malykhin instead. This may be — OK, it definitely is — a reach in Round 4, but I couldn’t hold back any longer from taking a shot at our pals at ONE.

Did I mention we love heavyweights? Malykhin is a big boy with the positional versatility to clash with any number of established KSW stars on our roster, including the legendary Mamed Khalidov. Add in the fact that he never goes to the scorecards and he’s a perfect fit for our brand of hard-hitting MMA.

BKFC: Dricus du Plessis

Heck: While DDP’s game has rounded itself out in a number of ways, his first love is creating insanity, and that’s why Dricus Du Plessis was the clear choice to enter the BKFC squared circle. And yes, we’re going to South Africa for his highly anticipated promotional debut.

Just think of what a fight between DDP and Pereira — or even DDP and Prochazka — would look like. My word, the electricity, the edge-of-your-seat theater — it just brings a smile to the faces of David Feldman and I. It’s great to travel to new parts of the world, and the fights we’ll give our fans with this addition of another current UFC champion will pave the way for greatness.

ONE Championship: Justin Gaethje

Meshew: I figured Gaethje might slide a little in the draft considering he just got brutally knocked out, but I had a ridiculous fear that the rest of you would somehow smarten up about the most exciting man to lace up four-ounce gloves.

Gaethje getting knocked out simply does not matter because you’re not putting him on your roster to be a champion that defends the belt for eternity and sets a standard of excellence. You’re putting him on the roster because he sets the standard for violence, and because every time he steps out there, you know it’s going to be awesome.

After UFC 300, I said we were lucky to be living during the time of the Four Kings of violence — Gaethje, Poirier, Oliveira, Holloway — and now I have two of them.

PFL: Mike Perry

Al-Shatti: Oh, now things are heating up!

Mike Perry may have left MMA in 2021 as an amusing novelty, but he returns in 2024 as a bona fide combat sports star. You want to talk about Kings of Violence, Jed? Perry exists in a different stratosphere. By stealing the face of bare-knuckle boxing with a late-round pick, we’re hitting two goals — effectively cutting off BKFC at the knees, and continuing to lean as hard as humanly possible into the fun that should embody the combat sports ethos.

Remember last round when we talked about all the matchmaking possibilities we could pull off with Poirier? Well hell, go ahead and throw Perry into that mix. Tell me the mind doesn’t delight at the fantasies of a guaranteed dogfight between Poirier and Perry, with all the pageantry and suddenly-legal-again nutrition plans of the early 2000s. Never will a canvas be more covered in crimson than the night those two demonic wolverines stand and trade.

“Platinum” is ready for prime time. Welcome to the co-leader.

UFC: Kayla Harrison

Martin: First off, curse you Al-Shatti. The pickings are slim outside of the UFC cupboard, but Perry was one name that deserved to return to the roster. Alas, he’s gone.

Let’s be honest now, the last couple of years in the women’s bantamweight division have been rough. Ronda Rousey was a bona fide superstar, but her jaw is still laying somewhere on an Australian arena floor after Holly Holm kicked it off. Amanda Nunes replaced her atop the division but never attracted the same level of attention, although remains the GOAT.

Enter a much-needed arrival from Kayla Harrison.

As a two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo, she has the athletic pedigree that’s easy to sell to consumers. She’s a ferocious competitor, and now that she’s successfully made the bantamweight limit and she’s finally allowed to use elbows, it’s going to be awfully hard to slow Harrison down. That’s why she’s a centerpiece worth building around, even if the rest of her competition right now is somewhat dreadful.


MMA-FRA-PFL-WELTERWEIGHT
Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images

Round 5

KSW: Cédric Doumbé

Lee: Sure, we already have Ngannou, but if we’re to march down the streets of Paris with maximum panache, then we need PFLator’s biggest star: Cédric Doumbé.

When last we saw Doumbé, he was being felled by a splinter, but let’s not dwell on him getting pranked by The MMA Gods. It happens to the best, sooner or later. The former Glory Kickboxing champion remains an incredibly exciting welterweight prospect and a perfect match for our undefeated champion Adrian Bartosinski. We don’t protect anyone in KSW, folks.

Much like with Malykhin, this selection comes with the added perk of driving a dagger into the heart of the two-headed dragon that is Shaheen Al-Shatti and Donn Davis.

BKFC: Sergei Pavlovich

Heck: Oh, AK, you ruined my chance of crushing Jed’s soul for the next 12 months by sniping this pick from him while he was on deck. But you did the thing, sir, so I must pivot in a different, yet still delightful way.

Folks, the heavyweight division can always use a boost, and there’s no way any of Sergei Pavlovich’s fights won’t be fun, or get out of the first round. While other promotions in this draft have severe pacing issues (I hope you fix that Shaheen, please for the love of God fix it), that’s a problem our promotion doesn’t have. And with the addition of Pavlovich, you can count on abrupt ends to incredibly thrilling and bloody fights.

Pavlovich no longer has to mix the martial arts, or be worried about opponents taking him down. No longer will that thought have to cross his mind. He can toe the line, chuck fists as hard as he possibly can, and know that fans will be appreciative of his efforts every time.

ONE Championship: Nate Diaz

Meshew: Doumbé was an exceptional pick. I thought everyone might forget about him but y’all are not that foolish, unfortunately. Still, I’m comfortable with where that leaves me, because I am once again fleecing all of y’all.

Nate Diaz is one of the biggest stars in MMA, full stop, and I’m getting him in the fifth round. This man has more Instagram followers than some of y’all rosters have combined. If Nate never even fought but simply posted about us once in awhile, the rub would be more than enough to warrant this contract. But instead, Stockton’s Finest will absolutely mix it up and may even get involved in the grappling competitions as well. And if he wants to keep boxing? That’s fine. Throw a little co-promotion credit our way and a few bucks and we’re happy to keep that dream alive too.

PFL: Merab Dvalishvili

Al-Shatti: I mean, if y’all are really going to let the best bantamweight in the world slide this far, I suppose I’ll oblige and gladly take Merab Dvalishvili off your hands.

PFL already held claim to one of the three men generally considered to be among the elite of the elite at 135 pounds, but the problem with Patchy Mix was always that we didn’t have anyone with significant enough name value to throw him against him. No longer. With two of the three bantamweights to receive first-place votes from the esteemed rankings panel at MMA Fighting (great website) now under our banner, the stage is set for one of the most skilled bantamweight matchups possible in 2024. Either Mix can prove that he’s a good as the hardcores believe him to be, or Dvalishvili can continue his crusade of destruction against one of his toughest tests yet.

Snatching the man who’s already tied for the longest win streak in UFC bantamweight history this late in the draft at the exact moment he’s broken through to the masses and been embraced by the MMA fan base is absolutely wild. Y’all keep letting these marquee names fall to us and we’ll happily keep scooping them up.

UFC: Umar Nurmagomedov

Martin: Bantamweight might just be the most talent-rich division in the sport right now, and Umar Nurmagomedov feels like the future at 135 pounds. Sure, he’s got the famous last name, which certainly doesn’t hurt him, but Nurmagomedov is also a world-class grappler who can maul just about anybody on the ground given the chance.

Every fighter we draft immediately earns a five-year contract and it’s tough to imagine a better investment in the future than a monster like Nurmagomedov. Assuming he stays healthy, there’s a great chance he’s holding a title by this time next year, and then it’s just a matter of fighting anybody capable of stopping him. Plus, as much as we all love Merab, he’s 33 and age seems to catch up to everybody a little faster in the smaller weight classes.

That’s why I’ll happily take the 28-year-old, undefeated Dagestani mauler when it comes to the new-look UFC.


UFC 300: Pereira v Hill
Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Round 6

KSW: Bo Nickal

Lee: Ever heard of America? We want a piece of that too.

Kayla Harrison would have been the ideal choice here (curse you, Martin), but we’ll settle for another athlete who is beloved stateside: Three-time national wrestling champion Bo Nickal. Not only will Nickal help us to capture the hearts of middle America, he’s also done pretty well for himself in MMA so far.

Nickal is a dream signing for any MMA promotion and we’ll treat him like a king over here. At 28, he has plenty of room to grow, and grow alongside us. We want to be in the Bo Nickal business.

Hey, U.S.A.: Money, please!

BKFC: Anthony Joshua

Heck: Throwing the old proverbial curveball. Who better to encapsulate the ebbs and flows of the combat sports world, of the boxing space, and now for the BKFC promotion, than a man who many counted out, and then with two bouts, got right back into the driver’s seat as a can’t miss competitor. Thus, we’re emptying the bank accounts — while securing immediate and easy-to-get funding — for the signing of Anthony Joshua.

Of course, BKFC is the people’s promotion. If the fans want Joshua to challenge for the undisputed heavyweight title against Tyson Fury or Oleksandar Usyk, of course we’ll let that happen. If we want to see a fight between Joshua and Francis Ngannou in MMA, or without gloves, we’re open to co-promotion. Rest assured, Joshua is going to deliver eyeballs and memories competing in our squared circle.

The amount of fighters who will want to try their luck against Joshua in this sport, let’s just say the phone will be ringing off the hook. We’re making waves in 2024 — in the U.K. and around the world — and with the addition of Eddie Hearn to cut fight week promos, it only enhances this selection.

ONE Championship: Weili Zhang

Meshew: I knew this would happen but I still can’t believe y’all allowed it. Weili Zhang is the No. 1 pound-for-pound woman in MMA and the key to promoting in China, and you let me snag her in the sixth round? ONE Championship is already the dominant promotional force in Asia, and now we have the best fighter from China to ever compete on our roster? This is a match made in heaven.

ONE’s female weight classes have some talent but they’re missing the top-end talent to really build momentum and fill out the room. Weili solves that problem and opens the door to a billion more viewers. She’s this year’s Puka Nacua, if everyone knew Nacua was amazing but still didn’t draft him for some reason.

PFL: Sean Strickland

Al-Shatti: OK, what is going on here? Is this a bit? I really feel like y’all must be doing a bit right now, because I’m genuinely confused with what is happening.

Whether you like him or not, Sean Strickland is a top-10 star in MMA right now. He’s someone who’s proven multiple times an ability to travel to foreign markets and capture the hearts and minds of the local fan base. Did no one here see the way the crowd reacted to Strickland’s every move in Sydney? The way he was overwhelmingly embraced in Toronto? For all his anti-influencer rhetoric, the man knows how to make headlines and keep himself front and center in the public eye, even outside of fight week. All of which isn’t even mentioning the fact that, ya know, he was a single round on a single scorecard away from preserving his position as the No. 1 middleweight in the world just three months ago.

You want a big name to throw against Johnny Eblen to test just how good the champ is? Done. You want a ridiculously goofy matchup guaranteed to be one of the wildest, most unhinged lead-ups in recent MMA history? Let me present you Strickland vs. Perry.

Make it make sense, because in no world did I imagine I’d get Strickland in Round 6.

UFC: Arman Tsarukyan

Martin: Last year, future UFC champion Ilia Topuria somehow made it all the way to me in the sixth round, and once again my colleagues are slipping when it comes to talent assessment. The NFL draft notoriously undervalues some players, which is why Tom Brady, Terrell Davis, Antonio Brown, and even all-time Bengal legend Ken Riley all made it to the sixth round before being selected.

But how did the No. 1 contender in the lightweight division fall this far? Tsarukyan just beat Charles Oliveira and that came one fight after he slept Beneil Dariush in impressive fashion. In his first-ever fight in the UFC on short notice, he gave Makhachev a tougher fight than just about anybody has outside of a couple of rounds with Alexander Volkanovski and a stunning upset from Adriano Martins. Ian Machado Garry may hold “The Future” as his nickname, but the moniker truly belongs to Tsarukyan.


UFC Fight Night: Dern v Yan
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Round 7

KSW: Jan Blachowicz

Lee: Come home, big fella.

Sure, there are a number of world champions, up-and-coming contenders, and social media stars up for grabs, but with KSW poised to take a quantum leap forward with our previous picks, we can allow ourselves a nostalgia grab. Jan Blachowicz, you were part of our foundation; now, we welcome you back to enjoy the spoils of what we’ve built.

Just picture the slick video package put together to announce Blachowicz for one of our stadium shows. Now picture him walking out to a deafening roar of tens of thousands of fans in his home country, holding back tears as he basks in the glory of a well-deserved hero’s welcome.

You conquered the UFC, Jan, now rejoin us as we take steps to conquering the world.

BKFC: Natalia Silva

Heck: BKFC has done a lot of things right, but we’re not perfect. The women’s divisions, to be frank, have been a bit mishandled. We’ve let potential stars like Britain Hart, Taylor Starling, and others sit on the sidelines for far too long, far too often, and that is about to change. We’re adding a fun name to the mix, one with incredible potential, as we welcome in our newest, soon-to-be rising star in “Natty Ice.”

Natalia Silva fits what we’re trying to do here so, so well. And while she’s a star on the rise in the UFC, her road to the top of the flyweight division will be a bit longer than it should be with all of the craziness at the top. At BKFC, Silva is going to get big opportunities immediately, and will be fighting for a world title within her first year with us.

When we head to Brazil with a card headlined by Pereira, and a co-main event featuring Silva, the fans are in for a treat. Welcome to the squad, “Natty Ice.” We’re thrilled to have you.

ONE Championship: Renato Moicano

Meshew: This is where I win the draft.

Through six rounds, I’ve drafted near flawlessly. My roster has the top pound-for-pound woman in the sport, two top-10 pound-for-pound men in the sport, two of the four most exciting fighters in the sport (including the top guy), and the biggest non-McGregor star in the sport. But you know what we’re lacking? Finances.

It’s no secret that ONE Championship is in a bad way financially. Sadly, Al-Shatti’s shoddy stewardship last year left us in a bad way. And the only way to come back from that is with rock solid financial planning. Luckily, I know a guy who not only can elucidate us on the economic theories of Ludwig Von Mises and cryptocurrency, but who can also compete in MMA and grappling at an elite level, across multiple weight classes: Renato Moicano.

And on top of the dual roles, “Money” will play for us in ONE, Moicano also fits the ONE ethos for 2024, because like him, we cannot afford to lose.

PFL: Gladiator Man + ‘Face The Pain’

Al-Shatti: HA! Ahahahaha! Yessssssssss!

Remember a week and a half ago when we were all enjoying UFC 300, then the pay-per-view started and suddenly the indomitable Gladiator Man burst onto our screens? Remember how ridiculously hype the entire MMA ecosystem became when that black-and-white s*** talk sailed straight into the dulcet nu-metal tones of Face The Pain? Remember the gotdamn collective goosebumps felt the world over when it became apparent that … dear God … the UFC is actually doing the thing???

Well, do not despair, my friends, because that one shining, glorious, nostalgia-laden ode to a bygone era? Oh, it’s back, it’s real, and it’s spectacular.

We kicked this whole exercise off by laying out the new PFL ethos. We now leave this draft with the GOAT in hand, the best heavyweight fight available in the sport today, one of the greatest all-action fighters to ever grace the cage, the face of bare-knuckle boxing, the No. 1 bantamweight in waiting, a red-blooded American star, a impossibly vast sea of new matchmaking possibilities, and now, the final piece to our PFL puzzle, the greatest tribute to MMA’s golden era available in 2024. Listen, dear friends, and rejoice.

UFC: Mark Zuckerberg

Martin: Let’s just talk reality — at this stage, the UFC has done nothing more than just defend home turf, because everybody wants what we have! We sign prospects and create superstars. That’s why our cupboard gets raided during every one of these drafts.

Since we close this thing out with the final selection, and considering all other fighters not picked just revert back to the UFC, we can get a little wild here. Yes, the UFC remains the only profitable MMA promotion on Earth, but why not fill those coffers with even more cash to swipe up every meaningful free agent in the sport?

The UFC is multi-billion dollar company and Mark Zuckerberg is a multi-billionaire all on his own. He’s a Brazilian jiu-jitsu enthusiast and suddenly a fixture at every major UFC event. Why not invite him to join the company and he can fund the next 10 years of operations with the money he finds in his couch cushions? Plus, now that the pesky antitrust lawsuit is settled, Zuck can personally fund us buying up anyone crazy enough to oppose the UFC. It feels like Jed’s roster may be ours soon enough. (Evil rich guy laugh.)

Plus, with Zuck on board, we can finally stage a fight in the Meta-verse! It’s a win-win!


Final draft results:

KSW (Alexander K. Lee

  1. Conor McGregor
  2. Francis Ngannou
  3. Khamzat Chimaev
  4. Anatoly Malykhin
  5. Cédric Doumbé
  6. Bo Nickal
  7. Jan Blachowicz

BKFC (Mike Heck)

  1. Alex Pereira
  2. Max Holloway
  3. Jiri Prochazka
  4. Dricus du Plessis
  5. Sergei Pavlovich
  6. Anthony Joshua
  7. Natalia Silva

ONE Championship (Jed Meshew)

  1. Ilia Topuria
  2. Sean O’Malley
  3. Charles Oliveira
  4. Justin Gaethje
  5. Nate Diaz
  6. Weili Zhang
  7. Renato Moicano

PFL (Shaun Al-Shatti)

  1. Jon Jones
  2. Tom Aspinall
  3. Dustin Poirier
  4. Mike Perry
  5. Merab Dvalishvili
  6. Sean Strickland
  7. Gladiator Man + “Face The Pain”

UFC (Damon Martin)

  1. Islam Makhachev
  2. Israel Adesanya
  3. Shavkat Rakhmonov
  4. Kayla Harrison
  5. Umar Nurmagomedov
  6. Arman Tsarukyan
  7. Mark Zuckerberg

Staff
Author: Staff

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