The Professional Fighters League (PFL) mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion and major US sports broadcaster ESPN have today announced a renewed media rights deal.
The multi-year extension includes live event distribution of the PFL regular season, playoffs, and World Championship on ESPN linear networks and the ESPN+ streaming service.
The ESPN+ PPV offering will also distribute the new PFL PPV Super Fight Division in the US when it launches in 2024.
PFL fighters will also be highlighted across ESPN platforms in pre- and post-fight coverage, as well as shoulder programming on linear and digital channels.
The series’ last renewal with ESPN came in January 2022 and was due to expire at the end of this year.
ESPN first secured PFL coverage rights in February 2019, striking a two-year deal.
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The sports network also holds domestic rights to the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
The PFL recently appointed former ESPN marketing executive Chris Blumberg as vice president of global brand.
Peter Murray, PFL chief executive, said: “We’ve had five successful seasons on ESPN and we’re excited for the next phase of growth for MMA and the Professional Fighters League with this agreement.
“Our innovative sport-season format, elite roster of athletes, and the launch of the PFL PPV Super Fight Division are ushering in the new era of MMA as a mainstream global sports entertainment platform.”
The PFL claims the PPV Super Fight Division will serve as “a first-of-its-kind global platform for the best MMA fighters and global combat sports stars” when it launches next year.
Former UFC star Francis Ngannou signed an exclusive MMA contract with PFL to fight in the division earlier this year.
The PFL agreed to an exclusive strategic partnership with Ngannou in a move that will see the US-based MMA series expand into Africa.
The Cameroonian fighter will be joined in the PPV Super Fight Division by influencer-turned-boxer Jake Paul.
The first PFL PPV Super Fight will be in early 2024 with fighters and location to be announced at a later date.
Earlier this month, the PFL acquired rival MMA series Bellator from US media giant Paramount as it looks to take on the UFC, the world’s largest MMA promotion.
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.
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 to eventually develop a Champions League-style tournament where the winners compete against each other.