Rick Story is back. Just not in the UFC.
The welterweight veteran has signed a deal with the Professional Fighters League and will enter the revamped promotion’s $1 million tournament-like system, he announced to Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour.
The PFL “season” is scheduled to begin in June and will be a true-sport format with a regular season, playoffs and championship fights in different weight divisions that are slated to culminate at the end of the year. PFL was formerly known as World Series of Fighting.
“I’m just gonna say it’s worth my while,” Story said. “And stacking on top the format they have and being able to win that amount of money just by winning, it kind of suits my interest, because it’s performance-based. You win, you get paid more. You lose, you’re out. It’s just cut and dried.”
Story (19-9) has not fought since a second-round TKO loss to Donald Cerrone at UFC 202 in August 2016. His contract with the UFC ran out after that bout. But “The Horror” had a lot of success in the UFC, including three straight wins prior to that defeat. Story, 33, owns wins over the likes of Johny Hendricks, Gunnar Nelson, Thiago Alves and Tarec Saffiedine. In seven years with the UFC, he was a perennial contender at 170 pounds.
“Since things ended up not going my way [against Cerrone], I was just kind of sidelined and wanted to wait for a better opportunity to become available and it finally came,” Story said. “It’s something i needed to move on and here we are.”
Before the Cerrone fight, Story said the UFC offered him a contract extension, but he passed because he didn’t like the financial numbers.
“I didn’t really think it was that fair, just for the fact that guys that I beat were getting paid pretty much double what I was making,” Story said. “It just kind of left a bad taste in my mouth.”
The thought of retirement did cross the mind of the Washington native, he said. Story said he was interested in becoming a firefighter and if the right gig came along, he might have taken that and stepped away from MMA. He is currently a volunteer firefighter in Vancouver, Wash., and on the list to work at a fire company in Portland, Ore., Story said.
“I would probably jump on that and go do that, because it’s something I really enjoy doing,” Story said. “I left my options open and I knew an opportunity would become available, I just didn’t know when. The PFL stepped up and I’m jumping all over it.”
The idea of being part of a regular season and format structure really interests Story, he said. It’s a very different process — from training to the cage — than being in the UFC. Story joins former Bellator champion Will Brooks as former high-level UFC veterans to join the PFL.
“Honestly, when you sit back and look at it from my perspective, it’s pretty awesome just because not only the strategy of being able to maintain that kind of workload in that short amount of time, it’s obviously gonna change fight style a little bit and how you’re gonna approach the fights,” Story said. “Its completely different. It’s not work out for three months to build up to one fight. It’s kind of like a marathon. Things are gonna change a little bit.”
Story said he will not be on the June 7 PFL opening card. When he does enter the cage, it’ll be nearly two years since the last time he fought. Part of the reason, Story said, was because he needed a double root canal on his two front teeth following the Cerrone knockout loss and it took a long time to heal.
“The sensitivity of my teeth took over a year to go away,” Story said. “I wasn’t motivated to even get touched in my top teeth. Every time I pushed down, it was super painful.”
Two years later, Story said not taking the UFC’s contract offer before the “Cowboy” fight does not linger with him. At the time, he felt like he was doing the right thing and he still believes that.
“No regrets,” Story said. “I have no hard feelings or anything. I just need to look out for myself, as opposed to anyone else. So, I’ve gotta put me number one and I’ve just gotta do what I feel is in my own best interest.”