February 21, 2021

PFL announces $65 million of financing to accelerate the firm’s growth

MMA firm Professional Fighters League has announced $65 million of fresh investment. The funding will…

  • MMA firm Professional Fighters League has announced $65 million of fresh investment.
  • The funding will go toward “international expansion and top talent acquisition,” PFL MMA said.
  • The upcoming PFL season begins Friday, April 23 in Las Vegas.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Professional Fighters League (PFL) has added $65 million of financing as it looks to expand international and accelerate its growth, the fight firm told Insider Thursday.

The PFL acquired the World Series of Fighting in 2017 and debuted with its inaugural season the following year.

The New York-based mixed martial arts firm follows conventional North American league structures like the NBA and the NFL, featuring a regular season, playoffs, and finals. That makes it unlike promotions such as the UFC which focus on standalone matches that can propel winners up rankings until they force title shots.

The PFL has completed two seasons to date, and restarts its live events business on Friday, April 23, having postponed its 2020 season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Competitors could fight up to five times throughout the year, culminating with $1 million final bouts in six weight classes in a big show on December 31.

This latest $65 million investment in the PFL business brings total funding to $175 million so far.

The new capital will “fund international expansion, top talent acquisition, new product innovation, and global audience growth,” a company statement said.

The funding round was led by Ares Capital, Elysian Park Ventures, and Knighthead Capital.

“PFL is the disruptive company in the massive MMA market,” PFL chairman and co-founder Donn Davis said. The cash injection will “fuel aggressive growth,” he added.

“In the PFL, fans follow individual fighter ‘win and advance’ journeys throughout the regular season, playoffs, and championship,” the PFL CEO Peter Murray said in a statement sent to Insider.

“There is no undercard in the PFL — every fight matters in the PFL,” Murray added.

The PFL’s roster strengthens year-on-year thanks to a combination of home-grown talents like women’s MMA star Kayla Harrison, returning champions like Lance Palmer and Ray Cooper III, and big-name acquisitions such as the former UFC champions Anthony Pettis, Fabricio Werdum, and the former Bellator champion Rory MacDonald.

Women’s boxing superstar Claressa Shields will also make her MMA debut for the PFL, but will do so in a standalone match separate to the league structure.

Her first fight will be “a massive, global event” in June,” Murray told Insider in December.

Claressa Shields PFL MMA

Claressa Shields.

Photo by PFL MMA

The upcoming PFL season will take place in Las Vegas. “Las Vegas is, in my view, the pinnacle of combat events and for legacy,” Murray told us.

“And we’re looking forward to coming back and having Las Vegas as the home for the 2021 PFL season.”

PFL expects ‘explosive’ viewership growth on ESPN

While the PFL’s live event business was on pause in 2020, the company launched PFL Studios, which tells audio-visual stories about MMA, the PFL, and PFL’s athletes. It also launched the PFL MMA app, which is a platform for those PFL Studios stories, and the company’s archival footage of live events.

“We’ve evolved from an event-driven company to a year-round content company, and now we’re going to be a media company and destination for broader combat,” said Murray.

Other innovations in the new season include more extensive data pooled from its SmartCage, which will provide statistics for athletes in-camp and then fight fans watching on a live broadcast.

This, Murray said, provides “invaluable data for how athletes are measuring aspects of their performance against different opponents, like speed, for example.”

The PFL has enjoyed growing ratings on its US broadcast partner ESPN, and Murray told Insider recently that the company expects its viewership figures in the country to double from the 361,000 viewers who tuned in to ESPN2 for its 2019 championship event.

“It’s going to be our most exciting season to date and we expect absolute, continued, explosive growth.”