The Professional Fighters League backed by Saudi Arabia’s sports fund, SRJ Sports Investments has acquired its rival Bellator MMA, aiming to compete directly with UFC and planning global Bellator events.
A New Chapter in Combat Sports
The PFL’s acquisition of Bellator marks a new chapter in combat sports. The PFL, which debuted in 2018, has quickly gained prominence on the global MMA scene. Its champions in each weight class are awarded a substantial $1 million in prize money, making it a highly attractive organization for fighters around the world.
On the other hand, Bellator, a brand owned by Paramount Global, has been a stalwart in the MMA scene since its founding in 2008. It has a vast array of world-class fighters and has consistently remained the second most recognized MMA league in the U.S., following UFC.
A Closer Look
The acquisition’s financial terms were not disclosed. However, it is known that SRJ Sports Investments, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), took a minority $100 million stake in PFL in August, adding more financial muscle to the organization.
In 2022, the PFL was valued at $500 million in a funding round, with investors including famous personalities such as Alex Rodriguez, Ares Capital, and Waverley Capital, a media investment firm.
The acquisition of Bellator is seen as a strategic move that will allow the PFL to leverage Bellator’s established brand and fanbase, further increasing its market value.
A Global MMA Powerhouse
Donn Davis, the founder, and chairman of PFL, has termed the acquisition as a step towards creating a “global MMA powerhouse.” He believes that with the combined rosters of PFL and Bellator, they now hold 30% of the top 25 world-ranked fighters, making them a formidable competitor to UFC.
The PFL plans to continue the Bellator brand and has even announced the launch of the Bellator International Championship Series, which will be located in major cities across the world.
This series will feature an event that will pit PFL’s champions against Bellator’s, creating a thrilling spectacle for MMA fans worldwide.
The Future of PFL and Bellator
The PFL has big plans for the future; the organization’s upcoming championship will take place in Washington on Nov 23, featuring heavyweight fighters such as Kayla Harrison, Bubba Jenkins, and Chris Wade. Moreover, talks are underway to stage the next championship in Saudi Arabia in November 2024.
The PFL and Bellator will exist as separate brands for now, with each organization maintaining its unique set of fight rules. However, the two organizations will collaborate, sharing their roster of fighters and potentially staging crossover title fights between their respective champions.
Competition with UFC
The PFL’s acquisition of Bellator has inevitably led to comparisons with the UFC, the current leader of the global MMA industry.
Peter Murray, the CEO of the PFL, has even signaled an interest in potentially collaborating with the UFC, stating that fights between the best fighters from PFL and UFC are fights that the fans would love to see.
Despite the competitive spirit, the PFL has made it clear that their aim is not to overtake the UFC but to become “co-leaders” in the industry. The organization believes that with the acquisition of Bellator, it is in a prime position to rival UFC and offer a new and exciting platform for MMA fighters and fans.
UFC chief and president Dana White, however, has dismissed the idea of a potential tie-up with the PFL. Following UFC 295, White stated that he was not interested in a collaboration, showing confidence in the strength and popularity of the UFC brand.
Despite this, the PFL’s acquisition of Bellator could potentially shake up the MMA industry and pose a significant challenge to the UFC’s current dominance.
The Impact on Saudi Arabia’s Sports Scene
The acquisition of Bellator by the PFL, backed by Saudi Arabia’s sports fund, is also set to have a significant impact on the country’s sports scene. SRJ Sports Investments’ involvement in the deal is part of a broader strategy to develop Saudi Arabia’s sports sector.
The PFL plans to host several live events in Saudi Arabia, which is expected to boost the popularity of MMA in the region.
Additionally, the investment aims to increase participation in MMA across Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council member nations, inspiring the next generation of fighters and providing them with a clear path to a professional career.
The PFL’s acquisition of Bellator is a game-changer for the MMA industry. The move not only strengthens the PFL’s position on the global stage but also opens up new opportunities for fighters and fans alike.
While the UFC remains a formidable force in the industry, the PFL’s strategic move has undoubtedly made the MMA scene more competitive and exciting.