In just less than five short years, the Professional Fighters League (PFL), a unique annual competition which crowns a new champion each season, has climbed the mixed martial arts (MMA) charts and landed in the coveted No. 2 position in combat sports in the world.
Thanks to an incredible team of executives led by Peter Murray, the PFL has achieved success faster and bigger than even that of the UFC, solidifying the claim of being the fastest-growing sports league in the world.
Murray, talking with MMA pundit Ariel Helwani earlier this year on an episode of The MMA Hour, explained just how the PFL was able to achieve this level of success through detailed metrics including global expansion and distribution.
“By all metrics in all sports, we’re the number two in the world,” Murray said. “As you look at the quality of the production, the caliber of the roster, broad reach in terms of our premium distribution, access for fans – US and international, we’re distributed at 160 countries, our commercial business.”
In the United States, the PFL airs live on the biggest sports broadcasting company in the region in ESPN. Globally, the promotion has distribution partnerships with MBC Action in the Middle East along with DIRECTV, RMC Sport, Mola TV and many, many others.
One part of that rapid global expansion includes adding the top talent available. The PFL recently signed Biaggio Ali Walsh, the grandson of boxing icon and former world champion Muhammad Ali. Ali Walsh will compete this coming November at PFL Championships live on ESPN+ pay-per-view from the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden.
But he is far from the lone big-market free agent splash that the PFL has made in recent months.
The promotion also grabbed one of the hottest free agents in MMA, Shane Burgos (15 wins 3 losses), as he will also make his debut in November at PFL Championships against Brazilian Marlon Moraes (23-10), another new addition to the roster. And, more recently, they signed Aspen Ladd to join an incredibly stacked female division.
But Ali Walsh is just one of the many, many fighters the PFL is constantly looking to acquire to continually build up the divisions. They have scouted the Middle East in recent years, putting a heavy focus on that region of the world to find the next world champion, while also putting forth a conscious effort to bring the PFL to the Middle East.
“We’re in all those, all the conversations when fighters go into free agency,” Murray said. “Now, we’re a global brand and we’re trusted…and we have proven that we have a model that works, and [that] we’re built for the long term and it’s now an alternative; not just fighters who are on the come-up, but established fighters who are ranked in the top 10, top 5, top 3, and number 1.
“We’re here to stay, and we’re here to play and compete. Not only are we going to develop our own talent through our system, we’ll certainly continue to sign major fighters. At the end of the day, without great fighters, nothing matters.
But our differentiators – the sports season format, the technology, as well as our storytelling – you combine that, it’s different. It’s premium, it’s innovative, and it’s a new experience for fans, and we cater to avid MMA fans.
“Fans of other properties, they want access to more quality MMA, and we also have the data that the PFL is bringing over non-avid fans, because of our true sport principles.”
Next year, the PFL will launch PFL Europe, spotlighting up-and-coming fighters from the region by allowing them to compete in a tournament to crown a champion. That fighter will also earn a spot in the PFL regular season, giving them an opportunity to face the best of the best.
The same plans are being worked on to bring the regional tournament format to other areas, including the United Arab Emirates, Asia and more. That will tie into the PFL’s vision of becoming a “Champions League” of MMA.
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