Olivier Aubin-Mercier is yet to lose inside the PFL cage. He’s now coming to the No. 1 spot.
If it weren’t for the injury that kept him from appearing in 2021, Aubin–Mercier, he might have a league title in his trophy case as well as a million dollars extra in his bank accounts. Instead, it’s taken him the better part of two years to find himself in a PFL finals bout. Stevie Ray will be his opponent for the lightweight title Friday at the 2022 PFL Champion in New York City.
Aubin-Mercier won two fights in his inaugural PFL campaign, but only one was part of the regular season, so he ended up being ineligible for the postseason (his second fight was a non-tournament bout). To secure his place in the final, he needed to defeat two-time league champion Natan Schulte, and 2021 champ Raush Manfio. This was a goal that the French-Canadian veteran had foreseen when he joined the PFL.
“I really believed that I would win the tournament last year just before I hurt my knee,” Aubin-Mercier shared with MMA Fighting. It was hard this year, and it seemed like I would have the most difficult path to winning the tournament. But I knew that I was going to succeed. I knew I was the best in the tournament. It was disappointing that I didn’t win the tournament last year, but it is what it is .”
Aubin-Mercier appreciated the opportunity to play a complete league schedule but was confused about how regular season matches were organized. Rather than reward the winners of the first set of matches with an easier opponent (on paper, anyway), the league opted to pair up its strongest fighters coming off of wins against one another in the second set of matches.
That meant that after Aubin-Mercier took a split nod over Schulte, he was lined up against Manfio and then had to face the streaking Alexander Martinez in the semifinals. Ray, on the other hand, lost to Martinez before beating Anthony Pettis twice in order to reach the finals.
” I was a bit crazy with the matchups, to be 100% honest,” Aubin-Mercie stated. “I got the hardest fight and everybody else had an easy fight (laughs). Manfio and me, Alex and me, Natan. I thought that I was the most difficult. In my first fight, I was beaten by Schulte twice. In the second fight, I was beaten by last year’s champion. However, other division members had [opponents coming off losses.]. I think this is unfair.
” I believe I had the hardest path.”
It was the most difficult path .”
That said, Aubin-Mercier bears no ill will against Ray, a former training partner at Tristar in the 2010s when both were competing in the UFC’s lightweight division.
It was actually Aubin-Mercier who Ray reached out to for advice when making the decision to sign with the PFL, a notion that Aubin-Mercier supported. Now Aubin-Mercier is focused fully on making it past his past Tristar ally, regardless of the path they traveled to Friday’s fight.
“Stevie Ray did what he had to do,” Aubin-Mercier said. “It’s nothing about Stevie Ray, but the truth is I beat three guys to get there and he beat one guy to get there. It was the most difficult path I have ever taken. Now that means nothing. It doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t matter what it means in the final. It doesn’t matter what percentage .”
I have to be there
Aubin Mercier is generally portrayed as a calm customer with a wry, humorous sense of humor. However, his frustration with matchmaking by the PFL wasn’t the only thing that made him feel frustrated.
Ahead of his fight with Martinez, who also has Canadian roots, the league saw fit to film a short promo with the semifinalists in which they took a genial approach to building up their fight. Although Aubin-Mercier enjoyed the idea, he regrets that he was able to snap at his crew members when it got too much.
“People from the PFL were excited and said, ‘It’s a great Idea,'” Aubin-Mercier stated. “I replied, ‘Yeah. I think it is a great idea.'” Aubin-Mercier said. At some point they were telling us, ‘Can you tell him, ‘You have great takedowns?’ Can you tell him, ‘You have great cardio?” I was like, ‘That’s it, that’s it guys! We know that we are going to be fighting each other. It’s over, it’s done. I do not mind telling him how beautiful he is, but telling him that he has excellent cardio.
” I remember that everyone at PFL said, “Oh s ***..” Oh no, what have we done?’ The video was really, really great, but at some point, 15 minutes of telling Alex he’s looking great I was like, ‘We’ve got to fight in two days. I don’t feel like doing it anymore.’ I apologized the day after to the PFL team but they were like, ‘Oh no, I think we were in the wrong.'”
With Rory MacDonald recently retiring, Aubin-Mercier could be Canada’s best gun if he is victorious Friday. A win in the PFL tournament would make him a more respected veteran of Canada’s MMA scene.
(It should be noted that Aubin-Mercier didn’t commit to using any of the PFL’s $1 million prize to boost the regional scene, joking that he’ll probably just hit the nearest casino and bet it all on black. )
Win or lose, he has some direct advice for those looking to be the next “GSP” — or the next “OAM.”
“First, don’t do it,” Aubin-Mercier said. “Don’t fight. It’s useless. Secondly, you have to be careful. Promoters can tell a lot to athletes, and that’s why the first rule in fighting is “Don’t Trust Any Promoters.” Make sure you get good camps. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I recommend Tristar. However, you can have a great coach and feel at ease with them.
” And you need to be humble as well. It is not fair to go to the gym thinking that you are a champion. You have to be humble, you have to learn, you have to help each other, you have to be fair and if I have a piece of advice for promoters it’s that you have to be fair too.”