Perpetually busy Sean O’Connell ready for another night of multitasking at PFL 7

Sean O’Connell has a bunch of work ahead of him Thursday night, and one part of it even involves fighting.

O’Connell (18-9) already has clinched a spot in the light heavyweight playoffs in the current first season of the Professional Fighters League. But Thursday, he meets Bazigit Ataev (18-2) in his second regular-season bout to help determine his playoff seeding.

But before he gets in the cage to fight at PFL 7, which takes place at Ocean Resort Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., with a televised card on NBCSN following early fights on Facebook Watch, O’Connell will be doing the same thing he did before his first PFL fight. He’ll be at the broadcast table.

“I’m doing the first three fights of the night on Facebook Watch, and then I’m in the co-main event,” O’Connell told MMAjunkie Radio.

He did that at PFL 2 in Chicago in June, then went out and stopped Ronny Markes with a second-round TKO. And when he was calling fights in Chicago, one of the ones he was working was between his Thursday opponent, Ataev – who was upset by Dan Spohn with a third-round knockout.

So despite Ataev’s stellar 18-1 MMA record coming into his PFL tenure, O’Connell got a good look at him in June.

“Obviously, I watched his last fight with Spohn – I commentated that fight cageside, so I got up close and personal with that one,” O’Connell said. “… He’s a very experienced fighter, just not always in mixed martial arts. He’s unbelievably seasoned and experienced. … I expect him to be in better shape this time, I expect him to take (me) more seriously this time, I expect it to be a very tough test in my career – but I’m going to send him home and out of the playoffs.”

Because other light heavyweights in the season fight ahead of O’Connell, the temptation could be there to either go hard for an early finish – or even be content to just ride out a win. The way the PFL’s points system works, it would give O’Connell an opportunity to do some quick math.

In other words, if a decision win meant a slightly lower seed in the playoffs, but an opponent he liked a matchup with better than a higher seed, he could practically call his spot in the bracket. But that’s not going to be the case. He’s a multitasker come Thursday night, but that’s one thing he won’t be thinking about.

“At the end of the day, this is the mentality I had when all this stuff started – I don’t really care where I’m seeded,” O’Connell said. “… If I start to worry about that, it takes away from the real task at hand, which is winning the fight and staying focused on the fight.”

Right now, O’Connell seems to be enjoying the new lease on his career. His UFC career ended in late 2016 when he suffered a third straight loss. But the PFL meant a new challenge, and a win in the playoffs would give him a $1 million payday. And that’s not bad by any standards, including the ones for a fighter whose other gig is as a sports radio host in Salt Lake City.

But $1 million prize or not, he seems to be excited about the future with PFL.

“I’m obviously not unbiased, but I think they’ve done a great job so far,” O’Connell said. “They’re treating the fighters with a lot of respect. They’re making sure everything is done well logistically. They’re trying to be open to new ideas, maybe expanding for Season 2 into more weight classes, maybe a women’s division.

“And I think most importantly, because they’re a new organization, trying to bite off a little piece of a market that’s been dominated by one company for a long time, they’re trying to grow at the right pace and they’re doing it in a more sustainable manner – already securing funding for next year before you really even get into Season 1 and all that kind of stuff.

“I’m confident that we have a new player in the mixed martial arts world in the PFL, I’m glad to be a part of it, and I’ll be more focused on the behind-the-scenes stuff when I’m not also fighting.”

For more on PFL 7, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

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