By just about any standard, Sean O’Connell had a good life.
The year was 2017 and he was just starting to get used to the idea that his MMA career was over. He had a job he enjoyed, talking sports on the radio in his home state of Utah. He was engaged to the woman he loved. He hadn’t thrown a punch for money since the previous year, when he exited the UFC on a three-fight losing skid and then entered what he would come to regard as a “pseudo-retirement.”
It was fine. He was in his mid-30s, so it was probably time anyway. He always knew he wasn’t going to fight forever, just like he always knew he’d probably never be the UFC light heavyweight champion.
Then he started hearing rumors that the fight promotion known as the World Series of Fighting was rebranding itself. It was going to be called the Professional Fighters League (PFL), and it was going to kick off 2018 with a regular “season” of events, leading up to a tournament that would reward the winner in each division with a cool $1 million prize.