Emiliano Sordi was one of Argentina’s best prospects when the UFC decided to give him a chance in 2018 and booked him against Ryan Spann at Dana White’s Contender Series.
Now years have passed since that 26-second defeat, and Sordi calls it blessing in disguise.
Sordi, who also went 1-2 under the Bellator banner from 2014-16, joined PFL shortly after his Contender Series loss and kicked off a 7-1-1 run that included winning the PFL light heavyweight championship and cashing a $1 million check in 2019.
As he looks to secure a spot in another playoff final on Friday with a 205-pound semifinal matchup against Antonio Carlos Junior at PFL 9 in Hollywood, Fla., Sordi has no interest in leaving the PFL anytime soon.
“The first thing is to continue here,” Sordi told MMA Fighting of his plans for the future. “I’ve had offers, big promotions like the UFC, but the way they treat the athlete here is great. They pay me well, treat me well, [so] why am I going to leave? To build my name again, to start over in another promotion? I don’t know. At least not right now.
“I’ll continue here next year, and we’ll see in the future. But I’m comfortable here. And there are some big names coming over as well. There are a lot of people talking sh*t about the UFC now, and [PFL] is growing. This promotion will make a lot of noise in a few years.”
The UFC’s pay structure has become a hot topic over the past couple of weeks after former champion Miesha Tate revealed that her “whole fight purse was gone” following her win over Marion Reneau, and UFC Vegas 34 headliner Jared Cannonier — who won a decision over Kelvin Gastelum — announced “I’m broke” in his post-fight interview live on ESPN.
“That’s what I’m talking about,” Sordi said. “I think you have to go to the UFC when you have a huge, huge name, to get in making good money. For me to get in making $30,000 or $50,000? And then after taxes, paying the team — are you fighting for free? They say the promotion is good because it makes you a big name. I don’t make a living off of my name, I make a living off of money, right? I’ll continue here. I’m fine here.
“And more big names will start to come.”
Looking back, Sordi is thankful for his 2018 setback against Spann.
“That’s the best fight I’ve ever lost in my life,” he said with a laugh. “Thank God I lost that fight. That changed everything. We don’t know what would have happened, but if I had won I would probably be fighting my fifth or sixth fight in the UFC now, but definitely wouldn’t have made that money.”
Sordi was able to survive a year on the sidelines in 2020 without much financial trouble because of the money he already has in the bank from his PFL winnings. That said, he isn’t looking past Carlos Junior and making plans for another seven-figure check just yet.
“My lifestyle isn’t expensive,” Sordi said. “To tell you the truth, I haven’t touched a single dollar [from 2019], so, to me, money was like an extra. I fight for honor, not for money. The million dollars is there. I don’t spend money in my life. I haven’t bought a Ferrari or anything like that. It’s all the same.”
Other Argentinians weren’t so lucky over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic though.
As the local economy struggled to handle several nationwide lockdowns, Sordi took it upon himself to go out to buy food and help the community.
Sordi, who’s lived in California since 2016, wasn’t happy with the Argentine government’s reaction to his $1 million win, though.
“The government tried to tax it but I’m an American resident,” Sordi said. “It was a fight. I went on TV there, fighting the president and all. Many people know me [in Argentina] because of that.”
Sordi went on Twitter days after his championship win to say he wouldn’t be “stupid” to take a single back dollar to Argentina.
@madorni me extraña amigo, veo todos tus videos y conferencias. No voy a ser tan boludo de llevar un dolar para argentina jajaj https://t.co/NRW63tdtTS— Emiliano Sordi (@emilianosordi) January 2, 2020
“Now, 50 percent of the people want to watch my fight just to see someone kill me,” he said, “and the other 50 percent wants to watch me kill the other guy, make more money and piss off the president [laughs]. I think the entire country will be watching this fight. Win or lose, they will be watching my fight.”
Sordi entered the PFL cage five times in 2019, with four of those stoppages coming inside the opening stanza. After an off year in 2020 and only two appearances so far in 2021, “He-Man” finally feels at his best.
“It wasn’t a great year for me,” Sordi said. “I haven’t gotten here in my best conditions to fight. I had COVID before the first fight and had staph infection on my leg before the second fight. I fought with my heart, basically. I knew the conditions weren’t good. Now I’m feeling well and confident. I can say I’m 100 percent.”
Carlos Junior also fought two times under the PFL banner after parting away from the UFC, a place where he beat the likes of Marvin Vettori, Tim Boetsch, and Jack Marshman from 2014-21.
The jiu-jitsu ace tapped Tom Lawlor and fought to a no contest with Vinny Magalhaes to advance to the PFL light heavyweight playoffs, and Sordi expects no easy task on Friday.
“Everybody knows he’s a tough guy, a TUF winner in Brazil,” Sordi said. “It’s another stone on my way for me to break and continue.
“It’s going to be the same fight of always,” he continued. “My entire life people have tried to take me down and I’m trying to escape the takedowns and fight on the feet, right? It’s no different than other times I fought grapplers. But he’s dangerous. It’s not only jiu-jitsu, he’s trained MMA for a long time already. He was a training partner of [Junior dos Santos] ‘Cigano’ so he knows what it feels like to get hit, right?”