The Professional Fighters League (PFL), a Chairman’s Circle member of the U.S.-Saudi Business Council, is a mixed martial arts (MMA) league founded in 2018 which presents MMA for the first time in the sport-season format, where individual fighters compete in a regular season, playoffs, and championship. The League’s events are broadcast on ESPN in the U.S. and on other premium networks around the world. The Council sat down with Peter Murray, CEO of Professional Fighters League to talk about the PFL’s entrance into the Saudi market, the future of professional fighting in the Saudi and international sports sector, and what makes the PFL a unique, unparalleled sports organization.
What would you say is the main differentiator between the PFL and other competitors such as UFC and Bellator?
Professional Fighters League is the first and only combat sports organization in the world to present the sport of MMA in a true-season format. In PFL, every fight matters and as an athlete-first organization, it is critical for us to provide world-class competitors with the opportunity to control their own destiny. As opposed to other combat sports leagues, we’re not picking which fighters to pair up against one another – every world champion earns that right inside the PFL SmartCage.
The PFL prides itself in providing innovative experiences for its audience via its “SmartCage.” Can you describe some of the technologies and analytics utilized by the SmartCage and how they enhance fan engagement and experiences?
PFL is the innovation leader in MMA with the SmartCage which delivers viewers with on-screen fight analytics and real-time prop bets. Everything from punch impact to heart rate, distance traveled, to computerized artificial intelligence scoring tells you who’s winning the fight. It’s all on the screen today, if you’re watching on ESPN, or if you’re watching on ESPN+.
That all leads to increased fan engagement. If someone watching is really passionate about the sport, they appreciate the level of detail and information. If you’re not that familiar with MMA, it helps you understand what is going on inside the SmartCage and immerses you into the fights.
In February 2021, the PFL raised $65 million in new financing to boost talent acquisition and international growth. What opportunities remain for interested Saudi investors?
In just its third season, PFL has solidified its position as the No. 2 MMA organization worldwide, delivering a unique, differentiated product to fans around the globe. With its true-season format and fighter-first culture, the company’s disruptive offering is unmatched across the combat sports landscape and PFL is open to exploring synergies with partners and brands that will boost its delivery of MMA 2.0.
Saudi Arabia has prioritized its sports sector as a pillar to achieving Vision 2030. It has hosted a world heavyweight boxing title, Formula One grand prix, and the WWE Crown Jewel, among other events. How does the PFL view Saudi Arabia as a potential host for future tournaments?
Saudi Arabia is a priority territory for the PFL not only as a potential host for PFL events, but also in terms of potential brand partnerships and from an athlete recruitment perspective. With more than 550 million fans around the world, MMA is the sport of the future and the PFL is striving to become the first true global league.
How can fans in the Middle East watch PFL competitions and what can fans expect for 2022?
The PFL is broadcasted globally in over 160 countries and interested fans in the Middle East can find their respective broadcast provider at PFLMMA.com/watch.
In 2022, PFL will more than double its live events, significantly expand the programming content available to international distribution partners and strengthen its position as both the leading global MMA league and a year-round media company.