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Manager calls out PFL’s ‘distasteful and unnecessary’ handling of Natan Schulte vs. Raush Manfio

2023 PFL 6 Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Professional Fighters League’s (PFL) Lightweight standings were revised after the promotion’s most recent event this past weekend (June 23, 2023).

Lightweight and Welterweight competitors took center stage in PFL’s final Atlanta, Georgia event and sixth of 2023. On the preliminary portion of the card, two of the promotion’s former 155-pound champions, Natan Schulte and Raush Manfio, met inside the cage.

Unfortunately for both men, the pairing was less than ideal as they’re best friends and teammates who train out of American Top Team (ATT) in Florida. In the end, Schulte won the bout via a unanimous decision, which initially earned him the fourth seed in the divisional standings and a spot in the playoffs. However, PFL revealed after the event that the performances of Schulte and Manfio didn’t meet “PFL standards” and suspended both for the rest of the year. Schulte has now been replaced in the playoffs by Shane Burgos despite having an equal number of points (three) and one more win (two) in the regular season. Normally, two decision wins would have equaled six total regular season points for Schulte, but not this time.

Manfio’s manager at Suckerpunch Entertainment, Brian Butler-Au, can’t help but feel the whole situation has been mishandled.

“To make a subjective decision like this from a promoter that stakes its claim in fighter advocacy is just a bad look, in my opinion,” Butler told MMA Fighting. “Judges make bad calls all the time with less repercussion. Raush and Natan are best friends and have been exclusive training partners for each other for years. Natan is the godfather of Raush’s daughter. To say they know each other’s styles, tricks and techniques inside and out is a gross understatement.

“Situations like bad style matchups and lackluster fights happen in this sport all the time but the unique thing about the PFL and the ‘tournament/point format’ is that it would sort itself out on its own in the end,” he concluded. “Our client got half his pay and zero points to move forward in the tournament. This is distasteful and unnecessary.”

Schulte is a two-time PFL champion within the $1 million tournament format. The promotion will likely need to do some relationship mending if it hopes to keep both he and Manfio under their banner for 2024.

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