Ray Sefo und die PFL



The DNA that circulates on the island of Samoa produces some really tough guys. The Pittsburgh Steelers had Troy Polamalu the bone-crushing defensive back with the luscious curls. Sumo wrestling had Saleva'aFuauliAtisano'e better known as Konishiki the first non-Japanese to become ozeki - the second highest ranking in the sport. The UFC has Max Holloway, its current featherweight champion. Probably the most famous Samoan villain is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who went from pro wrestling phenom to action star.

When it comes to crowning the "baddest Samoan on the planet" they might all pale in comparison to Ray Sefo. If you're not familiar with Sefo's background, you should know that over the course of four decades, he competed in four combat sports - boxing, Muay Thai, kickboxing and MMA, leaving a pile of 54 knockout opponents in 110 professional fights in his wake of destruction.

Training Century Boxsack

BLACK BELT recently had the opportunity to speak with this legend about what drove him to his cumulative determination. Open, honest and better looking than would be expected from a man with so many years in the 'injury business', Sefo represents the best that can be expected from a world champion. Whether he was talking about his humble beginnings, his career or the secrets of his success as President of the Professional Fighters League (PFL), Sefo did not mince words.


Born on 15 February 1971 in Auckland, New Zealand, into a family of seven boys and two girls, Sefo learned that fighting had been in his bloodline for generations. He quickly found out that this was also the case in his generation.

His younger brother Rony Sefo was a two-time world kickboxing champion and fought for Pride and K-1, his cousin Anthony Nansen was the New Zealand WKBF champion, and his cousin Birthony Nansen fought for the WBC women's super¬featherweight silver crown.

At the age of 5, Ray Sefo got his first pair of boxing gloves and started training with his father, brothers and cousins. But a few years later, his focus changed in ways you might relate to.

"My dad rented two movies," he recalls. "One was a Jackie Chan movie and the other was a Bruce Lee movie. I think it was 'They Called Him Bone Crusher' and 'Death Greetings from Shanghai'. And when I was 7 years old, I was completely stunned to see these guys jumping up and doing spinning hook kicks and back kicks. I was immediately hooked. At the age of 12, I started Wing Chun."

After six years of Wing Chun, Sefo switched to Muay Thai and signed up at Balmoral Lee Gar Gym. The old-school rough training that was the norm there under coach Lolo Heimuli eventually led to Sefo winning several Muay Thai world championships. At the same time, he ventured into the Oceanic Kickboxing League, where he became ISKA Cruiserweight and Super Cruiserweight Champion. In 1997, he won the WKA super heavyweight title.

However, most fans know Sefo from his glory days in K-1, where he competed in the Grand Prix eight times. When I asked him who his toughest opponent was, he joked that all his opponents were tough. Having fought so many great martial artists - including Ernesto Hoost, Jerome Le Banner, Mark Hunt and Mirko "Cro-Cop" Filipovic - Sefo said that the most memorable moment for him was simply being pitted against the best of the best in the world.

I wondered what impact his first defeat - against Hoost - had on him and how he overcame it. "Up until that point, my fear of losing was what drove me," he said. "Mike Tyson would say that he made fear his friend because it motivated him. And that's exactly what it did for me."

"I went into K-1 fighting at the time with a 22-0 record and five world titles, but my first loss and my first fight was against the legendary Ernesto Hoost. For the very first time in my career, I couldn't wait to get back in the ring. I knew then that the competitiveness that was in me wanted to make up for that mistake. I thought: 'I have experienced this for the first time. Now I know what it's like to lose a fight.'"

"The only way for me to win was to get back on the horse and ride it until it ran out of breath. And that's exactly what I did. I won my next fight. And then I was supposed to fight Jerome Le Banner - that was a must-win for me, because he was one of the biggest names in the sport. When I won that fight, my name became known worldwide."


Most of you are probably familiar with the 10,000-hour rule, popularised by Malcolm Gladwell's book "Highflyers". It says that it takes 10,000 hours of intensive practice to master a certain skill. Imagine how hard that must have been for someone who competed in four martial arts.

Sefo confirmed my suspicions, "First, you have to pay attention to detail. Secondly, you have to have the discipline to repeat the exercises over and over again. You have to throw a one-two combination a million times, a one-two-three combination a million times. ... For me, I was disciplined and I wanted to learn. I wanted to master everything I did." "It takes time, but after a while everything starts to work."

Sefo pointed out Bob Sapp (1.95 m tall, 150 kg heavy) and Hong-man Choi (2.18 m tall, 159 kg heavy). Of course, I asked about the tactics and techniques he used to prevail.

Boxsieger im Ring hebt die Fäuste

Sefo said that many of the fighters would try to physically impose their will on him because of their size. However, their plan evaporated the moment they met a man like him who fought back and used his not insignificant strength to impose his own will on them. He told how he once boxed against a man who was just over 2 metres tall and weighed 36 kilograms more than him. The man threw bombs at him from the first bell. When Sefo did not go down immediately, his opponent was surprised. When Sefo started to fight back, the giant was in shock. The feeling didn't last long, however, because within minutes he was knocked out by Sefo with an overhand right.

If you watch one of his fights with these giants, you will see that Sefo was like a bullfighter who deftly dodged their attacks. "But sometimes I was hard-nosed and fought it out with the biggest guys," he says. "My advantage was always that I was fast. Fortunately, I was always very explosive and sharp, and that helped me compete with the biggest guys in the world." "A lot of the point of view, footwork and lateral movement comes from boxing, which I've been doing since I was five years old. So it's second nature to me. When I started training Muay Thai with Lolo Heimuli, he worked on that a lot too."

Because Sefo is best known in some circles for breaking Le Banner's jaw in four places I wanted to know how he developed such punching power. Fortunately, he was eager to share his secrets. He said he was blessed with God-given strength, but then noted that it was enhanced by the development of the kinetic chain, which taught him how to transfer power from his legs and torso to his fists. Sefo credited this to his coaches in New Zealand, where he spent a lot of time running sprints and lifting weights for explosiveness. The focus was not on the amount of weight he could lift, but on the level of power he could generate, which is exactly what is needed for knockout punches.

As I mentioned earlier, Sefo doesn't look like he's taken a lot of punches in his career. This prompted me to ask him about his durability in the ring and what role attitude played as opposed to pure physicality. "When I was 20 years old, I didn't know I had that attitude," he said. "I knew I was always motivated and tough. But when you do the K-1 Grand Prix, for example, you fight three fights in one night. "The sun rises every day and sets every day. As long as the sun is doing that, that's what we have to do. Get up and keep moving forward."

Sparring und Century Ausrüstung


The latest rising star in the Professional Figh¬ters League is Claressa Shields. A two-time Olympic boxing gold medallist and champion in three boxing associations, Shields won her PFL debut on 10 June 2021 by defeating Brittney Elkin by TKO in the third round. "There is no reason why a fighter can't learn ju-jutsu and wrestling, but it takes time," Ray Sefo said. "It takes time to learn how to defend against a takedown and it takes time to learn how to get free when you've been taken down. But there's no reason why she can't learn that because she has a good work ethic and good credentials. It's not easy to become a two-time Olympic and three-time world boxing champion."

"We all know she has the will and the skills to make it. Now she just needs to apply the same mentality she showed in boxing to MMA and grappling. I have no doubt that Claressa will eventually be an MMA world champion."


For a while, Sefo was a professional boxer. He served as a sparring partner for David Tua, best known for his fight against Lennox Lewis for the heavyweight title.

"Working with Dave has been fantastic," Sefo said. "He is another Samoan who was powerful and explosive and always came to fight. He also had an iron chin. Working with him was actually beneficial because it showed me where I stood with my skills. Even though I was a kickboxer I used my hands a lot, especially because the guys were so much bigger. My plan was always to close the gap and use my hands."

In boxing, Sefo had a respectable record of five wins and only one loss, but decided against pursuing another career as a boxer. Talking about it, he said he has no regrets because he does not live his life looking back. He sees life as a journey and says he has thoroughly enjoyed it.

Besides boxing, Sefo also took up the challenge of MMA just to see if he could make it. This is all the more amazing when you consider that he did this three decades after he started his fighting career.

In 2011, in his third MMA fight, Sefo faced Valentijn Overeem the brother of Alistair Overeem. Valentijn already had 50 MMA fights under his belt when the two matched wits at a Strikeforce event. Why would the newcomer take a fight against a veteran?

"He said he could punch well and that he would stay upright for the fight, so I thought, 'OK man, let's go!' I asked Sefo if he would have switched to MMA earlier in his career instead of sticking to kickboxing if he had known where MMA was going. He said he might have started training MMA a little earlier, but it wasn't until he was a star in K-1 that he even realised Pride was becoming a thing. Again, he said he does not live a life of regret.


In 2012, Sefo co-founded the World Series of Fighting, an organisation that immediately landed a broadcast contract with NBC Sports. Over the course of its existence, WSOF hosted 35 events in various locations around the world. Big changes came in 2017, however, when the company was acquired by MMAX Investment Partners of Reston, Virginia, and the Professional Fighters League (PFL) was born.

Sefo was appointed President Fighter Operations for the PFL because those in charge believed he would be able to put together quality fights due to his vast experience. Certain that he wanted something unique for the new promotion, Sefo drew from his time in K-1, remembering how much Japanese fans loved the format where athletes had to fight and win in every tournament to get to the Grand Prix, where they had to compete three times in one night to win the major championship.

He devised a similar format for the PFL, but in an effort to make it more palatable to American fans, he modified it by introducing a regular season in which wins earned points that put the fighters into the play-offs. He topped it all off with a $1 million grand prize for each class winner - for both men and women. The PFL debuted at Madison Square Garden in New York City on June 7, 2018, and has been going strong ever since.

"I can't imagine a fighter going anywhere else and going home with $1.2 or $1.3 million within a year," Sefo said. "During the season, not only do they have the opportunity to win the world title, they also have the opportunity to earn more than a million dollars."


In addition to his extensive experience in martial arts, Ray Sefo has also tried his hand at the film industry. He appeared in an episode of the series "Hercules", he had a guest appearance in "Godzilla: Final Wars" and in the action thriller "Bad Guys - Bad Guys" with Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.


After interviewing Sefo, I consider him a polymath. He is the type of person who is always willing to try himself in a field that interests him. He has clearly tested himself in the ring, and now he is testing himself behind the scenes at the PFL.

His last fight was in 2013 in WSOF, the organisation he was running at the time. Official support, and reiterated his gratitude to all family members, coaches, training partners and friends who have supported him along the way. Whether in the ring, in the boardroom or in an interview, Ray Sefo is a fighter, a gentleman and the epitome of class. A true sportsman and a martial arts icon!

Did you know? With the PFL Europe, martial arts fans from Europe are presented with a brand new MMA league.

The PFL is coming to Europe! The MMA league, which is steadily growing in popularity and prestige in America and is number 2 in the world of mixed martial arts behind the UFC, now wants to establish its unique format on the European continent and bring top-class MMA very close to European fans. Four events are planned, 32 male and female fighters will compete in a league system, four champions will be crowned at the end - and lavish prize money will be distributed.

Betender Boxer


The PFL is one of the most innovative and fastest growing sports leagues and is considered the number 2 international MMA company after the UFC. It was founded in 2017 and launched for the first time in 2018. It particularly stands out due to its unique league system: It is the only MMA series to be held in a Regular Season, Post Season and Championship, similar to the major American baseball, football, basketball and football leagues.

The PFL organises competitions for international male and female fighters in different weight classes, and at the end of each season each weight class produces a champion. Unlike the UFC, the fights are not held in an octagon, but in a ten-sided cage instead of an eight-sided one, which the PFL calls SmartCage.

Until now, the PFL events were based in the USA. With PFL Europe, the MMA series is now crossing the pond for the first time and taking place on the European continent. In the first season in 2023, a total of four events will take place, all of which have already been scheduled.


In the PFL Europe, a total of 32 male and female fighters will compete in four events in four different weight classes in Regular Season, Post Season and Championship to crown four champions who will win prize money of 100,000 US dollars and a ticket to the global PFL in the United States.

The Regular Season will take place on the first two events. Points will be distributed on these fight days. A fight goes over three rounds. Whoever wins at the end gets threePoints. Whoever knocks out his opponent in the first round gets three extra points. Whoever knocks out his opponent in the second round gets two extra points. And whoever knocks out his opponent in the third round gets one extra point. The loser goes away empty-handed. If a fight ends in a draw, everyone gets one point.

Thus, after the first two days of fighting, a table is formed in each fighting class, according to which the play-offs are divided. These take place with four male and four female athletes per weight class on the third fighting day. There are no more points here - whoever loses is expelled. At the end of the year, eight male and female fighters are left to choose the champion of their respective weight class in a fight.


"The schedule for the inaugural season of PFL Europe is set," says Peter Murray, CEO of the Professional Fighters League. The four events will be spread throughout the year and will take place once per quarter. The preliminary round starts in Newcastle (England) and continues in Berlin (Germany). The semi-finals will take place in Paris (France). And in December, the four champions are then sought in Dublin (Ireland).


8 July 2023 Berlin, Germany Verti Music Hall Regular Season
30 September Paris, France Zenith Paris La Villette Playoffs

8 December 2023 Dublin, Ireland 3Arena Final

The Professional Fighters League (PFL), the fastest growing and most innovative sports league, has entered into a multi-year partnership with Century Martial Arts, the world leader in combat sports, as the official equipment partner of the PFL. The agreement began with the 2022 PFL Challenger Series, which will be streamed on fubo Sports Network, and will run until December 2025. Century Martial Arts will supply the PFL's branded fighting gloves for all PFL events. Century Martial Arts will grant PFL athletes access to Century-branded training facilities during each PFL event week, beginning with the regular season. "The Professional Fighters League is proud to partner with Century Martial Arts, which will debut at our inaugural PFL Challenger Series event in February and stream exclusively on fubo Sports Network," said PFL CRO Jon Tuck. "After a successful year for the PFL, we look forward to continuing the momentum and taking the sport of MMA to new heights." "As a company of martial artists, we see first-hand the transformative power of combat sports. We are deeply committed to growing the industry," said Century founder and CEO L. Michael Dillard. "Growth starts with supporting gyms, coaches, athletes and promoters who are making dreams come true. We look forward to bringing our martial arts heritage and innovation to the PFL by integrating their combat gauges into the fighting gloves."

Professional Fighters League (PFL) is the fastest growing and most innovative sports league. PFL is the #2 MMA company in the world and the only one with a sports season format where individual fighters compete in the regular season, playoffs and championship. The PFL airs in primetime on ESPN and ESPN+ in the US and was streamed live in 160 countries worldwide last year with partners including RMC Sport, FPT, Globo, Sky Sport, Eleven Sport and others. The PFL squad is world class, with 25% of PFL fighters independently ranked in the top 25 in the world. The PFL's proprietary SmartCage data and analytics platform enables real-time betting and offers a next-generation viewing experience. The PFL has more than two dozen premier brand sponsors including Anheuser-Busch, IBM, GEICO, DraftKings, Bose, Socios.com, Air Force Reserve, US Marine Corps and many more. PFL is backed by major investors such as Ares Capital, Luxor Capital, Elysian Park Ventures, Swan Ventures, Knighthead, Legends and several NBA, MLB and NHL team owners. MMA is the growth sport of this decade, with 600 million fans worldwide, the youngest audience of any sport and true global revenue streams.


Founded in 1976, Century Martial Arts is headquartered in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA, where it maintains its manufacturing and distribution facility to support martial artists around the world. As a manufacturer and distributor of thousands of unique items for martial arts schools, instructors and enthusiasts, Century Martial Arts is best known for its authentic and innovative martial arts roots that have also enabled the development of striking equipment for the modern combat and fitness athlete - products such as the iconic Body Opponent Bag "BOB", the free-standing Wavemaster punching bags and the Versys line of training bags. Century's commitment to the industry is also evident in its continued investment in wholly owned subsidiaries BlackBelt Magazine, Martial Arts Industry Association (MAIA) and Gameness Sports.

Our writer Perry William Kelly is a black belt, sixth dan, in ju-jutsu and an instructor in four other martial arts. He is the former National Use of Force Coordinator for the Correctional Service of Canada. In 2017, he was a karate gold medalist at the World Police and Fire Games, and in 2018 he received the Joe Lewis Eternal Warrior Award. His website is perrywkelly.com.

Century Martial Arts Europe GmbH
2023-04-20 09:33:00

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