Olivier Aubin-Mercier has a lot to be happy about these days.
After wondering not that long ago if perhaps his fighting career was over, the 33-year-old Canadian is now the PFL’s 2022 lightweight champion and he is $1 million richer following his knockout of Stevie Ray in the finals of the year-long tournament this past Friday. It’s a far cry from when Aubin-Mercier was distraught in the middle of the pandemic without the ability to compete and he was offering training sessions in his hometown just to stay afloat financially.
“There was a point I didn’t know what would happen [with my career],” Aubin-Mercier said on The MMA Hour. “I mean when COVID happened, they really, truly closed everything here in Quebec and I was like god****, is it the end for my career? Is it the end for me? I thought about maybe getting a job because money was slowly going out of my bank account.
“I needed to pay some bills and actually at some point last year, I was giving classes in the park. People were able to come train with me. I was giving a little class in the park, everybody was two meters away from everybody, it was really truly crazy. I was asking like $20 a class. It’s crazy to think I was asking for $20 to train with me for an hour and then right now I just won the million dollars with the crazy knockout. I had some doubts with my career.”
The pandemic hit just after Aubin-Mercier also saw his career with the UFC come to an end after he spent over five years with the promotion. A three-fight losing streak precipitated his contract expiring, which made him a free agent without any guarantees about what would come next.
That’s when the PFL came calling with an offer to join the lightweight roster along with a promise that winning the season long tournament would yield a million-dollar payday.
Now that’s he’s earned seven-figures in a single night, Aubin-Mercier says that going to the PFL was the best possible move for his future and he expects more fighters will soon realize that it’s an opportunity they should pursue as well.
“I truly hope they see what’s happening,” Aubin-Mercier said. “I hope there’s no fighters that are mad about that, that are mad that they make less money in the UFC than I made money in the PFL. Because I think truly the problem is those fighters that decide to go to the UFC instead of the PFL just because of the big name.
“I think people are going to understand really soon that you can live a really good life if you go to the PFL. A lot more people are going to try to come to PFL instead of the UFC and I think I’m a great example of that. Other people are going to open their eyes and just going to see, UFC is great, the name is big and everything but that’s it.”
Beyond the paycheck he just earned — which he believes is more than he made during his entire tenure with the UFC — Aubin-Mercier also feels that the PFL treats him like a person rather than just another name on the roster.
“When I was in the UFC, I didn’t really feel respected. I felt like a number. That’s it,” Aubin-Mercier said. “With PFL, I don’t feel like a number.
“I love the people working there. I love the people that did the show. It’s really great. I feel respected. I feel that maybe they could change some stuff and I feel like my voice is heard, too. If I tell them that I think that’s not the right way, they listen to me. Maybe they won’t do anything about it but at least they listen to me and they are respectful about that. I think I feel more respected in PFL and I feel richer than in the UFC.”
With plans to make another run at the PFL lightweight championship in 2023, Aubin-Mercier is glad to put the past behind him and truly celebrate this achievement, which felt nearly impossible not that long ago.
“The last couple of years was tough on everybody but to be able to achieve something like this after everything, it’s truly an amazing moment,” Aubin-Mercier said. “It was really stressful, too, so I’m really happy that it’s done.
“I’m happy I was on top at the end and I’m happy with the accomplishment. Right now, I feel like a million bucks. It’s truly great.”