Less than two weeks after acquiring Bellator, the Professional Fighters League announced a multiyear extension of its multimedia rights deal with ESPN on Thursday.
The new agreement comes days after the PFL World Championship, where six fighters won $1 million, a card split between ESPN+ and ESPN+ PPV. According to the announcement, the new rights package includes distribution on ESPN’s linear channels and ESPN+.
ESPN+ PPV will be home to the PFL’s Super Fight Division, which launches next year, and will likely feature former UFC heavyweight champ Francis Ngannou and Jake Paul.
“We have had four successful seasons with ESPN with major audience growth — 30% year over year — and we will continue to grow,” PFL CEO Peter Murray told Front Office Sports. “ESPN, is a top-tier sports platform, both linear and obviously streaming. It really just illustrates that MMA is now mainstream. It’s a growth sport.”
Financial terms of the deal, the PFL’s third with ESPN, were not disclosed.
The Super Fight Division joins PFL’s existing fight series: the PFL League Season, PFL Challenger Series and the PFL International Leagues. Murray said the plan is to have two “tentpole” events split between the first and second half of 2024.
Bellator International Champions Series, however, is not part of the ESPN deal.
“Bellator will be distributed globally,” Murray said. “We’ll be sharing those details in the coming weeks.”
The PFL touted that after its Bellator purchase that it has 30% of its top fighters per Fight Matrix world rankings.Yahoo Sports noted this week that that percentage isn’t as high on other world rankings from ESPN, MMA Junkie and Sherdog.
PFL executives remain bullish on its continued expansion efforts as it seeks to challenge UFC, the dominant MMA promotion in the U.S. and worldwide.
UFC is also broadcast and streamed by ESPN, a seven-year deal worth about $300 million annually that runs through 2025.