Editor's note: Daniel Pineda's opponent Gadzhi Rabadanov missed weight, giving Pineda three points for a walkover win. Because of how PFL 5 played out, Pineda earned a spot in the featherweight playoffs.
Daniel Pineda is a veteran mixed martial artist who was added as an alternate to the 2019 PFL season.
A few months ago, I was at my gym in Houston getting dressed in the locker room and preparing to train. I'd just defended my Fury FC featherweight title in a TKO victory over Ray Trujillo, but I was staying sharp. That's when the phone rang. It was the PFL.
On Thursday, I'll return to the cage in a featherweight bout against Gadzhi Rabadanov at PFL 5 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I'm a late addition to the $1 million tournament, but I have a chance to shake up the field and qualify for the playoffs with an early finish.
It's awesome. This opportunity is amazing. After fighting in the UFC and Bellator earlier in my career, I've been waiting for the call to come back to the big show, and this is it.
It's hard to explain how this all happened, but it's one of those things where, I guess, the work you put into it -- it's gonna show.
I'm 33 years old, and I've won four fights in a row. I've lost only twice since 2014. Every fight, you take seriously. You can get caught in any fight. And right now, it's time to fight. That's what I do.
I was in high school when I first realized that I might have a future in this. You know how it is. You get into a few fights, and you realize you're pretty good. And then, like any other gig, this is the role you end up playing.
Probably after my first pro fight (I didn't have any amateur fights), I knew I had a chance to make some money. It was easy and fun and something I enjoyed.
I'm 26-13 overall. Some people have said I'm inconsistent. I don't worry about that. That's just media stuff.
All you can do is watch my losses. Don't even look at the wins. Watch my losses, and you can see I've never been beaten up. If I have to, I'm gonna throw down. You look at my record. I'm a 100 percent finisher in my victories. I've never won a decision. I'm a finisher. I want to go in there and take somebody out. I don't want to take my time. I want to go in and get him out of there.
And now, here I am as a late addition to the PFL featherweight tournament.
"When I was a younger fighter, I was just a brawler. I was a wrestler who wanted to brawl. I punched people until they wanted to give up. I've changed a few things in my game during this win streak. ... I wish I would have had then what I have right now." Daniel Pineda
It's a $1 million prize. That would be life-changing. Everybody knows that. That's why it's gonna be one of those fights. It's not gonna be easy. It's not gonna be easy for either of us. Even with the points system, it's not that simple to just go and try to get the early finish. You don't want to just rush in there with a game plan that I'm gonna do this. If the opportunity is there, yes, I'll take it.
But we train for the full 15 minutes. I don't know much about [Rabadanov]. There's not much tape on him. What I can see is he's a wrestler. He trains at a good gym, and he's gonna do his part.
I think with my new coaches and my new team [at 4oz Fight Club in Houston], I've just evolved as a fighter.
When I was a younger fighter, I was just a brawler. I was a wrestler who wanted to brawl. I punched people until they wanted to give up. I've changed a few things in my game during this win streak. It's a lot better. I wish I would have had then what I have right now.
I'm injury-free. Everybody is standing behind me. I'm so much more technical than I was back then.
I get better every day.
Thursday's fight is for everybody. It's not just for me. It's for my family. It's for my team. I would say it's for myself last. I fight for everybody else. I have a lot of guys and girls at my gym that look up to me.
I want them to see that this is what can come from hard work.