Shane Burgos wanted a chance to compete for the $1 million prize in the PFL finals. But his decision to sign there rather than returning to the UFC went deeper than just seeking that possible reward.
After reaching free agency following the end of his previous contract with the UFC, the 32-year-old veteran was at a crossroad with where he wanted to go in his career. Facing the same situation a few years earlier, Burgos opted to stay with the UFC, and while money was always important, it wasn’t the driving factor in his decision.
That all changed this past year when Burgos was faced with the same option and the PFL came calling.
“The deal I got is phenomenal,” Burgos told MMA Fighting. “By the end of the tournament, once I get my hand raised and get that belt wrapped around my waist, my bank account is going to be looking mighty fine. My manager Malki [Kawa] put that in my head — are you a UFC fighter or are you a prize fighter? I can proudly and confidently say now I’m a prize fighter.
“I’m fighting for a f****** bag now. I’m not fighting for peanuts. I’m fighting for pro athlete money and that’s what I’m making.”
According to Burgos, he needed that reminder from his manager, especially when the time came to make that decision about either staying with the UFC or testing himself in another promotion.
Now just days away from making his PFL debut, Burgos is more than happy with his choice.
“This isn’t the first time I’ve fought out my contract, this is the second time,” Burgos explained. “At first when he asked me that question, I was a UFC fighter. I took pride in being in the UFC, being in the top organization. Now I’ve got to make sure this s*** was worth it when it’s all said and done.
“I’m putting my f******* body on the line. You’ve seen the way I fight. I don’t fight to win points. I put my blood, sweat and tears into this s***. Not just in the cage but in the buildup to it. I’ve got to make sure when I’m done with this sport, I’ve got three daughters that need their dad and they’ve got to say it was worth it and I’m making this s*** worth it.”
After signing with the PFL, Burgos did hear from UFC President Dana White, who expressed regret that the organization didn’t try harder to keep him there. That meant a lot, because he never wanted to burn bridges with the UFC. He just couldn’t pass up on the opportunity that the PFL offered.
“First thing that comes to mind, the feeling I get when hearing that is it’s flattering,” Burgos said. “Say what you want about Dana, you’ve got to give him respect. A huge part of why this sport is so big is because of him. So to have him say something like that about me after leaving his organization, to wish me well, he called me after and was happy for me. Same thing with Hunter [Campbell] and Sean Shelby.
“To go out on good terms like that, which never really happens, and to be appreciated for the fights and the show I put on for them, it feels good to be appreciated for that.”
While the money is great, Burgos also knows that he’s still facing incredibly tough opposition in the PFL with no guarantees that he’ll find success. He’s witnessed plenty of UFC veterans and former champions sign with the PFL and never reach the season finals, much less claim the title and $1 million prize.
“I don’t think it’s a step down [in competition] at all,” Burgos said. “They have f****** phenomenal fighters in both the 145 and 155 [pound] weight classes that I was dabbling with. To look at that as a step down for me as the athlete doing it, that would be stupid on my part. It’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be a walk in the park.
“Four fights against anyone is hard in eight months. Four fights against guys that are world class, it’s not easy. I don’t expect it to be easy. Anything worth having in life doesn’t come easy so I’ll take the hard way.”