SRJ Sports Investments, the sports-focused investment vehicle recently launched by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), has acquired a minority stake in the Professional Fighters League (PFL), the US-based mixed martial arts (MMA) series, as it continues to widen its sports footprint.

People familiar with the discussions told the Financial Times the $100 million investment into PFL is SRJ Sports’ first deal since the vehicle launched. It also marks the PIF’s first major investment into MMA following previous deals in soccer and golf.

SRJ Sports is investing in PFL’s parent company and will fund the launch of two new projects next year – a PFL league for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and the PFL’s 'Super Fight' pay-per-view (PPV) division.

The funds will also be used to lure more stars to PFL, as well as increase participation in MMA across Saudi Arabia and the MENA region. PFL MENA is expected to launch in March 2024.

Saudi Arabia will also host and bankroll a “substantial” number of PFL PPV events in the coming years, while SRJ chairman Bander Bin Mogren will sit on the PFL board.

In a statement, Bin Mogren said: “SRJ is shaping the growth of the domestic sports economy. This investment aims to nurture the local and regional talent pool in martial arts.”

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By GlobalData

The investment comes after the PFL raised $200 million from a group of investors including Ares, Knighthead, Luxor Capital, Waverly Capital, and Elysian Park Ventures.

The series 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.

The deal also comes three months after the series appointed Gregg Bernard as executive vice president of international strategy and business development to boost its global presence.

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.

The launch of PFL Europe and PFL MENA are two of six regional leagues that the PFL is looking to establish with the aim to eventually develop a Champions League-style tournament where the winners compete against each other.

For its global competition, the PFL has broadcast deals in place with ESPN domestically and in Sub-Saharan Africa, DAZN in Japan and Spain, DirecTV in South America, and Viaplay in 10 European markets, among a host of others.

It regards itself as the number two MMA company globally and notes that it is the only MMA league with a “true sports-season format” comprising a regular season, playoffs, and championship.

The PFL investment continues Saudi Arabia’s push to become a major player within sports, having recently acquired controlling stakes in four leading domestic soccer clubs to grow the national league and investing heavily in recruiting star players to play in the Saudi Pro League.

The PIF also owns Newcastle United after its controversial takeover of the English Premier League club was approved in October 2021.

Outside of soccer, the sovereign wealth fund owns the LIV golf circuit, which has rivaled the traditional PGA Tour in recent years but merged with the US golf body at the beginning of June.  

The PIF is also reportedly holding talks with the ATP, the organizer of the top men’s tennis tour, about possible co-investments as the kingdom continues to expand its activities in sports.