EXCLUSIVE | Ramsey Nijem explains choice to sign with the PFL

Following his departure from the UFC, Ramsey Nijem received interest from a number of top mixed martial arts promotions. In the end, he decided to sign with the Professional Fighters League (PFL), a new league that is striving to revolutionize the MMA industry with an exciting seasonal format and whopping, million-dollar prizes.

Nijem, who is set to battle Brian Foster in the opening round of the PFL lightweight season this Thursday, is obviously very excited about the possibility of depositing a million-dollar check at the end of this inaugural PFL season. For Nijem, however, this hefty prize was not the only appeal of the PFL.

The PFL utilizes an inventive scoring system for its tournament bouts. Each winner receives three points, but winners also receive a three-point bonus for finishing in the first round, a two-point bonus for finishing in the second, and a one-point bonus for finishing in the third. In other words, it is very much in a fighter’s best interest to win quickly. In Nijem’s eyes, this scoring system will entirely reshape the way fighters game-plan for fights, and hopefully, result in an altogether more exciting version of MMA.

“I think one of the biggest things that the PFL [will] change is game-planning,” Nijem said on the latest episode of BJPENN.COM Radio. “I think one of the biggest things that the PFL is doing a great job [with] is the bonus points. That changes everyone’s game plan, cause it’s not just go in, take someone down, and try to hold him down for the three points, cause that might not be enough to [advance] in the tournament. You gotta go out and try to get bonus points. There’s guys out there getting first-round finishes, second, third round finishes, and getting all these bonus points to get that seating.”

“I really, really think the format and incentives, and the [bonuses for] finishing early just kind of makes for exciting fights,” he continued. “Like that PFL 1 [card]. It was exciting. I thought all the fights were super interesting because you can’t look away. Like, what if someone gets a finish and bonus points. It really sucks you into the fight more.”

Interestingly, there are also several other reasons why Nijem elected to sign with PFL — even beyond the potential for a massive payday and the innovative point system. For one, he believes the seasonal format will erase the possibility of politics affecting championship matchmaking, as it so clearly does in the UFC. 

“I decided to fight with this organization because I do believe in what they’re doing,” he said. “I’ve watched sports my whole life. So, it’s like, whoever’s the winner [each] year is the champion that year, and that’s it. And then, if you’re an injured champion, you’re [not] the champion, or if you’re not willing to defend your belt, you’re not the champion. And so, it… it kind of takes away a lot of the politics of it.”

Nijem also uses his station as a well-known MMA star to inspire and empower young people — particularly refugees. This is a cause that is near and dear to him, and one he says the PFL has been very supportive of.

“I understand what martial arts can do for people, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually,” Nijem said. “And that’s why I’m a big advocate. Like, alright, lets get these refugee kids into MMA, get them training, and it’s gonna help [with] everything else in life. It’ll help them with whatever they’ve been through, help them learn English, help them build a community of people that they know. On the mat, everyone’s the same. It doesn’t matter if you have a doctor degree in something or you’re just a homeless dude off the street. We’re all the same on the mat. I think that’s a really powerful thing about you bringing these kids with some of these people, and just kind of bring everyone together. Kind of help everyone just heal a little bit.”

“[One of my] biggest supporters has been thePFL,” he added. “They gave me tickets, free tickets for the refugee kids to all come to the fights, they’ve helped me promote it, they’ve actually given me more tickets than I even asked for. They send me emails saying ‘hey, any way we can help, let us know’. So, it’s been super cool to have such a support system from the promotion because really at the end of the day, [all of] us working together is what kind of what PFL is trying to do, and I’ve really experienced that. These are things that I’ve always wanted to do, and I’ve always worked for myself, but I’ve only had my own voice. Now when you have voices of other people and more people, it kind of builds that momentum. That’s what I’m super grateful for.”

“Honestly, like, right after that happened — I was already excited to fight for PFL, and then they started helping me with this, and then I was like, “Hell yeah! Dude, I’m even more excited now”.

Catch Ramsey Nijem in action opposite Brian Foster at PFL 2 this Thursday night.

This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 6/19/2018.