Olivier Aubin-Mercier thinks the PFL may want to start thinking twice about putting their prized signings up against him.
The league’s 2022 lightweight champion kicked off his 2023 campaign with a bang, defeating fellow former UFC fighter Shane Burgos by unanimous decision in the main event of PFL 3 this past Saturday. Burgos recently signed with the PFL coming off of two straight victories in the UFC’s featherweight division, but Aubin-Mercier stifled him to earn his own seventh consecutive win.
Aubin-Mercier appeared on The MMA Hour on Monday, where he was asked if he felt the PFL made a mistake booking him as the opponent for Burgos’ debut.
“I was surprised they gave me Shane,” Aubin-Mercier said. “I really thought they would not give it to me at first, but I feel that they changed the way they see it. Last time with [Anthony] Pettis, I think they tried to make a little path for him to make the final and it failed, and I think this time they tried the opposite, to just make the best fight in the beginning.
“They did the same with [Brendan] Loughnane, they did the same with [Rob Wilkinson] — they put them against the new signings of the PFL and it didn’t play out.”
Aubin-Mercier was referencing former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, who has yet to advance to a final in two seasons with the PFL. Former UFC title contenders Marlon Moraes and Thiago Santos were also unsuccessful in their PFL regular season debuts, losing to Brendan Loughnane and Rob Wilkinson, respectively.
Regarding the seemingly uneven promotional push that Burgos received in the lead-up to their fight, Aubin-Mercier took it in stride and later enjoyed playing the spoiler.
“I thought about that and for sure it was kind of nice,” Aubin-Mercier said of being the underdog. “You know, the plan was not for me to win, they wanted Shane to win and make a big thing out of it. It was pretty funny because I had conversations with all my friends and they were always sending me how every champ was on posters and everything but me, but always Shane was there.
“It was pretty funny, but it’s all good. I’m OK with that. He’s a bigger name than I am, so I can understand. It was sweet to have a win over Shane because of that.”
Aubin-Mercier, a former welterweight, got the better of Burgos in the striking and grappling departments, at one point neutralizing Burgos’ offense by taking back control with both men standing. In the end, Aubin-Mercier earned a trio of 30-27 scores to win a comfortable decision.
Asked if he thought Burgos made a mistake moving up to lightweight, Aubin-Mercier said that it may take Burgos time to adjust.
“I heard he had a lot of trouble making 145 and I don’t think he’s going to be able to do the tournament at 145 because it’s four fights in a year,” Aubin-Mercier said. “So I don’t think so, but he used a lot of his size when he was at 145. I don’t think it’s going to be possible at 155. Let’s see what happens. We saw a lot of big 145ers, they did really well at 155 after a couple of fights, if you think about [Dustin] Poirier and [Charles] Oliveira. I think he just needs to adjust a little bit.”
As for explaining his own success, Aubin-Mercier said it’s simply a matter of maturing and also having had time to focus on growth and development, as opposed to constantly throwing himself into fight camps. During his run with the UFC, Aubin-Mercier compiled a 7-5 record, with his last three appearances for the promotion being decision losses to Arman Tsarukyan, Gilbert Burns, and Alexander Hernandez.
Aubin-Mercier is yet to lose since joining the PFL in 2021 and he sees himself as a matchup problem for anyone in his division.
“I’m more confident,” Aubin-Mercier said. “I feel I’m more of a tactician too. I always had problems in the UFC for some reason with my fight IQ. I really made bad decisions when I was fighting in the UFC during fights, and I think during COVID I had to watch a lot of fights and study a lot of fights. I had a lot of time to just get better. Not fight, just get better. And I think that really, really helped. When you’re in the UFC, you always have to fight. When you don’t fight, you try to recuperate and you feel so much pressure, that you don’t really get better.
“So I think with everything that happened in the last couple of years, I had time to get better, I had time to study fights, and I had time to understand what are my strengths and what are my weaknesses, and I think we can see that now. I think I’m a really complicated man to fight right now.”