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Professional Fighters League seeks $50 million investment for international expansion


Jon Fitch (crimson gloves) fights Brian Foster (blue gloves) within the welterweight predominant occasion throughout Professional Fighters League: Daytona at Daytona International Speedway on June 30, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

After canceling its 2020 blended martial arts season as a result of Covid-19, the Professional Fighters League, or PFL, is searching for one other spherical of funding to increase operations earlier than its deliberate return in 2021.

PFL Chairman Donn Davis advised CNBC the PFL raised $105 million since its begin in 2018, together with a $28 million Series B in 2018 and $50 million Series C in 2019. It hopes the brand new funding will assist plans for international expansion.

Davis stated the PFL is 2 years away from breaking even because it appears to solicit extra traders for its $50 million spherical. 

“Building the next great sports league takes capital,” he stated. “It takes smarts and takes great talent. Nobody likes to deal with adversity, but the best companies get better.”

Davis additionally plans to make use of the funds to increase the PFL’s know-how for its over-the-top platform

The sequence debuted its knowledge analytics feeds final 12 months, which featured fighter stats, together with kick pace, punching affect, and different fighter metrics. The PFL desires to show the information into prop bets by way of a playing partnership it began.

2021 and past

The PFL, a single-entity league managed by traders that embody outstanding sports activities homeowners, stated it is planning for a bubble atmosphere in Las Vegas for 2021 ought to reside occasions not return as a result of Covid-19.

The sequence has a daily season and a postseason and concludes with six championship competitions. Fighters obtain $1 million in the event that they win.

“It’s MMA meets March Madness. When you turn on a PFL fight, you know that fighter is fighting for his life. Every fight is an elimination fight,” he added. “Every fight is a Game 7.”

PFL CEO Peter Murray, a former senior govt on the National Football League, stated the PFL desires to take care of visibility and the momentum it captured throughout its New Year’s Eve mega occasion held in New York.

The PFL desires to construct its media rights market after a take care of ESPN expires following the 2021 season. Murray stated the sequence will supply partnership rights in classes together with playing, car and sports activities drink. The firm already has partnerships in place with high manufacturers, together with Anheuser-Busch and Geico.

“As we see the brand marketplace of advertisers and sponsors, they can no longer ignore a fan base of 450 million around the world,” stated Murray.

What persons are saying

Although the PFL has distribution in place, and Davis praises the sequence’ 40% stake of Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC, viewers, some sports activities bankers are skeptical the PFL can proceed its pre-pandemic development.

Competing towards mega-brands such because the UFC, which in keeping with Bloomberg has a 90% grip on MMA market share, is tough. One banker, who spoke with CNBC on the situation of anonymity, in contrast the PFL to the XFL’s two failed makes an attempt to tackle the NFL, for instance.

PFL traders embody Washington Wizards proprietor Ted Leonsis and Washington Nationals proprietor Mark Lerner. They can assist Davis fight UFC’s monetary backer, Endeavor, which had a failed IPO try in 2019 and is experiencing its personal difficulties as a result of Covid-19.

Campbell McLaren, the co-creator of UFC and present CEO of MMA sequence “Combate Americas,” stated the PFL sequence stands out from the UFC with a daily season format.

“Donn’s premise is: Let’s take the Dana White and Don King aspect out of MMA, and let’s run it like other professional sports leagues,” stated McLaren. “Win your fight, move up in the rankings and get the next fight. That’s not how the UFC does it and not how I do it,” added McLaren.

An image taken on March 26, 2020, reveals a automobile driving on a highway subsequent to the King Abdullah Financial City within the Saudi capital Riyadh, after the Kingdom started implementing an 11-hour nationwide curfew, on the day of an emergency G20 videoconference, to debate a response to the COVID-19 disaster. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP) (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP through Getty Images)

FAYEZ NURELDINE | AFP through Getty Images

Looking to Saudi Arabia

“We see huge opportunity internationally that never existed before,” Davis stated. “PFL Europe, PFL Russia, PFL Latin America – giving those territories their own PFL league.” Murray stated the PFL is “having conversations” about increasing to Saudi Arabia. 

Saudi Arabia might be key for the PFL. It’s the most important economic system within the Middle East and, by way of its Vision 2030 plan, is hoping to scale back its dependence on oil.

Qiddiya, a brand new tourism challenge, is predicted to be twice the dimensions of Disney World and can embody an enormous sports activities and leisure advanced that would host MMA occasions. It’s spearheaded by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund may put money into sports activities leagues to supply extra sporting occasions.

“It’s a dynamic market,” Murray stated of the Middle East. “It’s a market where there’s demand at many levels for expanded sports content from a distribution standpoint, from a live event on the ground standpoint, and developing future athletes.”



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