Dubai: Driven by the current surge in MMA’s popularity, the Professional Fighters League (PFL), the first organisation ever to present the sport through a regular season and league-based format, is targeting its global expansion with the Middle East being seen as a “priority region”.
The PFL debuted its inaugural season in June 2018 at Madison Square Garden in New York, and in a short span of time has captured the imagination of fight fans around the world.
Earlier this month, the PFL launched its state-of-the-art OTT platform, an app featuring a full fight library and World Series of Fighting archives that will stream free into millions of homes around the world, including the UAE.
The PFL MMA app, which aims to spread MMA worldwide, is available for free on Apple TV, Roku, Fire, Android and iOS devices.
Speaking to Gulf News via Zoom from New York, PFL CEO Peter Murray said: “We are extremely excited particularly as the Middle East is a priority region for the Professional Fighters League, one with an affinity for combat sports and an impressive crop of high-calibre fighters.
“As part of our plan to internationalise the PFL our plan is to identify fighters from different part of the world, an particularly the Middle East, to test their mettle and for them to know what it’s like to compete in the league.
“It’s never done before but we hope to recruit new talent from that region.
“We are having ongoing conversations with partners in the Middle East and countries like India, which are largely untapped, as it presents a massive opportunity for fight fans, participation, distribution and even ownership.”
The PFL’s 2020 season may have cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the Murray and his team have wasted no time to plan for its third season in 2021, where the International Qualifier Series will provide fighters with a chance to earn their way into the PFL.
“We will also hold events tied to our season format outside of the US and the UAE is a region we are exploring,” said Murray, a veteran of business strategy and operations.
“Our championship event is a spectacle, with six million-dollar title fights in one night, including one for women. Holding the championship internationally is something we are discussing.
“In just two seasons we have positioned ourselves as the No. 2 organisation in the sport and we have done this by providing a premium, differentiated product.
“We are the only MMA organisation with a Regular Season, Playoffs, and Championship format,
“Now that fans can follow their favourite fighter’s journey (through the PFL App) there is no debate over who should be champion or get a title shot. This resonates with fight fans. Every fight matters.
“We believe this will especially resonate overseas. And for fighters, $1 million is life-changing money. We provide a global stage for fighters to compete and showcase their skills and earn that $1 million payday, its top dollar.
“The format speaks to fighter principles as they know who they are fighting, when they fight and what they are fighting for — you don’t get that with any other event.
“We are going to see athletes who are top ranked in other organisation going free agency and fighting in the PFL, the game has changed.
“There no longer only one organisation, the PFL is a more viable for a professional athlete looking to make his or her mark on the sport and we provide a massive payoff on a massive global platform.”
What is the PFL?
The PFL is the first organisation to present MMA in a true sport format with individual fighters competing in a regular season, play-offs, and world championship. PFL is distributed on ESPN and reaches more than 160 countries worldwide.
The premiere season in 2018 featured 72 athletes, 12 in each of the six different weight-classes, with one fighter in each division.
The PFL is home to fighters such as Olympian Kayla Harrison, Rory MacDonald, Ray Cooper and Emiliano Sordi, along with MMA personalities such as Randy Couture.
Meet Peter Murray
Murray is the CEO and board member of the PFL. He oversees all business strategy and operations, fighter roster, event management, production, content, and marketing for the mixed martial arts league.
Before joining PFL, Murray served as VP Global Brand and Sports Marketing at Under Armour. In this role, he was responsible for category management of football, baseball, basketball, football, combat, and Olympic sports.
Prior to Under Armour, he was co-founder and CEO of Insignia Sports Agency and EVP Marketing & New Business at William Morris Endeavor. For the previous 13 years, Peter was also a senior executive at the National Football League, including roles as SVP of Business & Content Development, SVP of Global Brand Partnerships.