Professional Fighters League acquires Bellator MMA: Should UFC be concerned?

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The Professional Fighters League has acquired rival MMA promotion Bellator, the company announced Monday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The PFL is the only MMA promotion with fighters competing in a regular season, playoff and championship each year. The six division champions each receive $1 million for winning the tournament.
  • With the addition of Bellator’s roster, PFL says 30 percent of its fighters rank in the top 25 of their respective weight classes.
  • PFL says it will continue the Bellator brand and launch a new product in 2024 called the “Bellator International Champions Series.” This will consist of eight fight cards each year hosted in major cities with titles on the line.
  • PFL plans to have a major event in 2024 pitting Bellator champions against PFL champions in seven divisions. The date and location is to be determined.

What they are saying

“PFL is now a global powerhouse in MMA,” Donn Davis, PFL Founder and Chairman, said in a press release. “Our Bellator acquisition turbocharges PFL’s mission to advance the sport and become the co-leader.”

Added Peter Murray, PFL CEO: “The combined PFL and Bellator fighter rosters are second to none in MMA. We can’t wait to bring MMA fans major fights every single event in 2024.”

How surprising is this?

Somewhat, but not majorly surprising. Bellator has been rumored to be looking for a sale for months now and this was only expedited once Paramount decided to end all of Showtime’s future sports content (read: boxing and MMA) at the end of this year.

PFL seemed like a logical next step. The MMA promotion has been on the rise in recent years and acquiring Bellator’s talented roster always seemed to make the most sense. It was just a matter of whether it was financially feasible. Now we have the answer.

What does this mean for the overall MMA landscape?

Make no mistake about it, this is major news. Bellator has some intriguing fighters — Vadim Nemkov, Patricky and Patricio Pitbull, A.J. McKee, Usman Nurmagomedov, Patchy Mix come to mind— and seeing them face the PFL’s best would be must-watch for any fan of the sport.

This is essentially the No. 2 and No. 3 promotions coming together to form one big roster. While I’m still very skeptical it will cut into the UFC’s market share, you can’t ignore this move. And any legit competition for the UFC is good for the fighters. It’s another avenue for them if they don’t want to accept lower salaries offered by the UFC, aim to make money on their own sponsors or have dreams of boxing on the side.

All of that is why a megastar like Francis Ngannou left the UFC for PFL. Will more join him, especially with a bolstered roster? Only time will tell.

Required reading

(Photo: Cooper Neill / Getty Images)

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