Saturday December 9, 2023

PFL Completes Acquisition of Bellator, Readies to Challenge UFC

  • PFL was in talks to acquire the Paramount subsidiary for several months.
  • “Today, the MMA market changed,” PFL Founder Donn Davis told FOS.
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The Professional Fighters League’s monthslong pursuit of Bellator finally concluded on Monday. 

PFL announced that it had completed its acquisition of Bellator from Paramount, a move that gives PFL a roster of fighters — in size and independent rankings anyway — that is close to UFC’s roster. 

“Today, the MMA market changed,” Donn Davis, PFL’s founder and chairman, told Front Office Sports. “PFL is now a global powerhouse in MMA, and as I’ve said before, we started the company with the aim to be a premium No. 2 in MMA. We achieved that today. We set a new goal to become the co-leader at MMA. With the acquisition of Bellator, we now have the fighter assets, and the ability to be the co-leader at MMA.”

FOS reported in September that PFL was in talks to acquire Bellator. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund invested $100 million in PFL via its new sports investment arm, SRJ Sports Investments. 

PFL will operate Bellator as a separate brand, and will use it for its one-off events as part of its “reimagined Bellator product in 2024,” according to a PFL news release. There are slated to be eight one-off events next year, where fighters from both leagues will be on the cards. 

“What’ll make it very cool is we’ll have two championship belts on the line for every single event,” Davis said. “They’ll be big events. The biggest events will always be pay-per-view superfights.”

The move means Paramount is out of the combat sports business, outside a minority stake the company retains in Bellator. 

Last month, Paramount announced it was shuttering Showtime Sports. That meant Showtime Boxing — which had been a major force in the sport for nearly four decades — would spin down by year’s end. 

“This transaction continues Paramount’s strategy to more efficiently allocate resources and align our content offering across the business,” a Paramount Global spokesperson said in a statement to FOS. “As one combined entity with some of the best talent in the industry, we believe the companies can and will create a deeper and stronger MMA promotion together.”

Paramount has owned Bellator since the MMA body launched in 2008. Since 2014, longtime  MMA executive Scott Coker has run Bellator.

“I’ve been very vocal about my respect for Scott and what he’s done for the MMA industry,” David said. “We’d like Scott and [Bellator matchmaker] Mike [Kogan] and the entire Bellator team to have big roles as part of our company going forward.”

PFL’s main series is currently broadcast on ESPN, a deal that concludes with Friday’s 2023 PFL World Championship in Washington. The prelims are available on ESPN+ with the main event on ESPN+ PPV for $49.99. 

It’s expected that a new TV agreement will be announced in December.

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