Natan Schulte has one more chance to make the 2021 PFL playoffs and he’ll have to go through a friend to do it.
The league announced Monday that Mikhail Odintsov has been forced to withdraw due to injury from his lightweight bout against Schulte, which was scheduled for PFL 4 this Thursday at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, N.J. Schulte (20-4-1) now fights American Top Team teammate Raush Manfio (12-3).
Thursday’s fight is a do-or-die situation for Schulte, a two-time league champion. Schulte lost by unanimous decision to Marcin Held at PFL 1 in April and currently sits outside of the top-4 of the PFL standings. Only four fighters will advance to the playoffs to compete for the league title and a $1,000,000 prize.
Manfio also fought at PFL 1 and he served as a replacement on that card as well. Manfio took the spot of an injured Olivier Aubin-Mercier and went on to defeat Joilton Lutterbach by split decision. That win earned Manfio three points in the PFL standings. He can clinch a spot in the playoffs with a win over Schulte, who just so happens to be the godfather of Manfio’s daughter.
In a recent interview with MMA Fighting, Manfio noted that he was aware of the possibility that he could potentially fight Schulte, though he had hoped it would only be for the grand prize.
“I’m praying we only meet in the final,” Manfio said. “My heart would be in pieces in any other situation but this. If we fight in the final, we’ll brawl for a good reason [laughs]. That’s a good problem to have. Imagine two Cristians there, showing how God changed our lives. From nothing to winning an entire tournament to reach the final? It’s like Goku and Vegeta.”