Since signing with the Professional Fighters League in 2020, Olivier Aubin-Mercier has been almost unstoppable in the cage. “The Canadian Gangster” is a former champion looking to repeat at the 2023 PFL World Championship Finals against Clay Collard on November 24.
After that? Well, he believes this chapter of his life is coming to a close.
The Montreal-born 34-year-old turned pro in 2011 and joined the UFC in 2014. Going 7-5 with the promotion, he ended his run with the UFC on a three-fight losing streak. Having not been re-signed, he joined the PFL during the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic. It took a while for him to adjust to the tournament style and he was injured before a fight in 2021.
When he did compete that year, Aubin-Mercier realized that a unanimous decision win, which he got in his SmartCage debut against Marcin Held, was not going to get him anywhere. He adapted following that fight and is now 9-0 in the PFL SmartCage. He beat Stevie Ray via knockout to win the 2022 lightweight finals, and this year Aubin-Mercier won two contests via knockout to advance to his second-straight finals appearance.
“I would say I’m better than I was in the UFC,” Aubin-Mercier told The Sporting News. “During the COVID era, instead of doing nothing, I trained every day. I had time to get better in the UFC, training camp after training camp. In training camp, you push so hard you don’t try and learn new stuff since you’re going to fight soon, so you don’t really get better. I had time during the COVID era to learn new stuff and improve my overall game.
“I think you have to be smarter with your training when you do PFL. You cannot go 100 percent every training camp because you’re going to get hurt. You fight so much, so many times. Those are the two things that really helped me to maybe become a two-time (champion).”
OAM has become one of the rare fighters from the UFC to succeed in the PFL, surpassing fighters like Rory MacDonald, Anthony Pettis, and Thiago Santos. He has made a name for himself as one of the top Canadian fighters in combat sports.
However, there has to be a balance with success. Having recently become a father, Aubin-Mercier understands the grueling schedule one must go through to be a champion. That is especially true in the PFL, where one can fight multiple times from April to November.
He believes his upcoming fight with Collard will be his last in MMA.
“I don’t think (PFL) will come to Montreal. I think it’s going to be too hard. I may retire from fighting,” Aubin-Mercier said. “I’m OK with that. The more I’m getting close to the fight, the more I’m saying that’s going to be it. If the PFL needs my help to find new prospects in Canada, I’ll be there. I’d for sure like to help them grow, but maybe not as a fighter, as something different. This will probably be my last one.”
It is not the first time OAM has teased retirement during the 2023 season. Training has taken a toll, and he is ready to go on vacation. Given this mindset, could it affect the fight once the first bell rings?
“I would have said yes, but not really. How I see this fight… it’s weird because I’ve never been as good as right now. With that being said, it’s like a peace of mind. I know that anything can happen, and I did everything in my power to be the best,” Aubin-Mercier stated. “For me, I don’t really care about winning or losing. I just care about finishing it and knowing I did everything in my power to be the best version of myself.
“It’s a weird way to see it, but if I’m really honest, that’s how I see it. I don’t decide how I see things, so I guess that’s a good thing… it’s really about myself. I already know that I’m the best version of myself. Me, personally, I’m already happy. The cherry on top would be to win the second time. But if I’m really honest, I don’t care.”
It is a unique way of looking at things, considering his opponent. Collard has competed in MMA since 2011 but began his combat sports career at age six. Another former UFC fighter, he went 1-3 with the promotion. Joining the PFL, Collard is 6-2, beating the likes of Pettis, Jeremy Stephens, and Shane Burgos. The 30-year-old has come out of nowhere to be a true force in the PFL.
Not only does he have MMA experience, but Collard is also a boxer. “Cassius” has over 100 amateur fights, and he turned pro in 2017, compiling a 9-6-3 record. He was the MVP in the Top Rank Bubble during the pandemic and has raw power that halts his opponents in their tracks.
Aubin-Mercier also hits for power and can take an opponent to the ground if needed. The two styles make for a very intriguing fight.
“He’s (Collard) really good at getting closer and be overwhelming,” Aubin-Mercier said. “He has a lot of volume, so you have to keep him away. I think some fighters were able to do that and others were not. But you have to keep him away, that’s for sure. That’s going to be the way to beat him. To control the pace and [keep him] away.
“I’m ready for anything. It’s a five-round fight. Anything can happen. You have to be really, really careful, but I’m ready for everything. Especially the standup. He’s really good at what he does, but he makes some mistakes, especially standup. He’s a really good boxer, but as a kickboxer, I don’t know. We’ll have to see what happens there.”
Given the competitive nature of both, it looks like Aubin-Mercier will be, literally and figuratively, going out swinging. He wouldn’t have it any other way.