Itso Babulaidze looks to move to 3-0 as a pro and earn a PFL contract as the Challenger Series kicks off with the welterweight’s.
On Friday, Jan. 27 the PFL Challenger Series gets underway in Orlando as the welterweights clash to determine who will earn a contract for the 2023 PFL Season. The Challenger Series presents fighters with a unique opportunity to impress the fans, a panel of celebrity judges, and Ray Sefo for a chance to earn their way into the PFL regular season tournament and compete for a million-dollar prize.
Week one of the PFL Challenger Series will be headlined by two of the sport’s most intriguing prospects. IBJJF Champion and accomplished jiu-jitsu practitioner Lucas Barbosa (2-1) returns to MMA for the first time since 2012 to take on Georgia’s own Itso Babulaidze (2-0).
How did Itso Babulaidze wind up on the PFL Challenger Series?
While Barbosa may already be world-renowned in his specialty, Babulaidze was forced to take the hard road to get to this point. At the PFL playoffs on Aug. 5, Babulaidze was matched up with former Olympic wrestler Mahmoud Sebie in a showcase bout. Amazingly, Babulaidze was able to weather the early Olympic-level grappling pressure from Sebie before unleashing a devastating combination of strikes and ground and pound to finish the fight with 30 seconds remaining in the first round.
Babulaidze has even stayed busy since his first fight under the PFL banner, picking up a win by armbar in a submission grappling match at Revolt Fight League in New Jersey. He’ll need all the grappling experience he can get to take on Barbosa in the main event. Still, a finish over Barbosa on the PFL Challenger Series would almost guarantee Babulaidze a contract and a chance to compete for a million dollars in the PFL welterweight division in 2023.