The Professional Fighters League (PFL) has acquired rival mixed martial arts (MMA) series Bellator from US media giant Paramount as it looks to take on the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the world’s largest MMA promotion.
Full financial terms of the sale, first mooted in September, were not disclosed but Paramount will retain a minority stake in Bellator.
The US-based PFL is a relative newcomer in combat sports, having launched its first event in 2018. It is backed by SRJ Sports Investments, the sports-focused investment vehicle recently launched by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which secured a minority stake in the promotion for $100 million in September.
That investment came after the PFL raised $200 million from a group of investors including Ares, Knighthead, Luxor Capital, Waverly Capital, and Elysian Park Ventures. The series was last year valued at between $500 million and $1 billion.
Paramount, meanwhile, has owned Bellator since its launch in 2008, and the promotion has been led by veteran MMA executive Scott Coker (pictured) since 2014. The promotion has staged almost 300 events since its inception.
However, the media giant has been looking to cut costs by selling off or closing several properties, including Showtime, its premium entertainment cable and satellite channel, which will shut down at the end of the year.
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Bellator’s events are currently shown on Showtime in the US, while its fights were previously aired on other Paramount channels such as CBS Sports Network.
The acquisition comes as PFL attempts to rival the UFC as the top MMA series by launching two new projects next year – a league for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and a 'Super Fight' pay-per-view (PPV) division.
The series has also moved to raise its profile by signing exclusive MMA deals with Francis Ngannou, the former heavyweight champion from rival Ultimate Fighting Championship, and US influencer-turned-fighter Jake Paul. They are set to make their PFL debuts next year on PPV.
Earlier this year, the series launched its regional offshoot PFL Europe as part of a joint venture deal with subscription streaming service DAZN, with events in England, Ireland, France, and Germany staged in March.
PFL Europe and PFL MENA are two of six regional leagues that the PFL is looking to establish with the aim of eventually developing a Champions League-style tournament where the winners compete against each other.