The Professional Fighters League (PFL), the US-based mixed martial arts (MMA) series, has today appointed experienced commercial executive Damian Willoughby as head of global partnerships.

He will be based out of the PFL London office and report to the organization’s chief executive, Peter Murray.

In his role, Willoughby will lead commercial growth for PFL franchises including PFL PPV Super Fight Division, Bellator, PFL Global Season, PFL Europe, PFL MENA, and new international leagues, across sponsorship, ad-sales, and betting revenue streams.

PFL will launch additional international leagues in key regions such as Africa, Australia, Latin America, and Asia.

Willoughby most recently served as commercial director for English Premier League soccer club Chelsea but was fired just weeks into the job after a probe into an allegation that he sent “inappropriate messages” to finance agent Catalina Kim.

He had joined Chelsea from the Electronic Arts (EA) video game publisher where he was vice president of partnerships.

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Prior to his role with EA, he served as chief executive at the City Football Group (CFG) India soccer organization. He left CFG India in July 2021 after over six years at the group.

Before joining Manchester City, he spent seven years at Scottish soccer heavyweights Rangers as head of sponsorship, and then three years at Chelsea, again heading up the sponsorship side of the business, between 2007 and 2010. 

Willoughby also founded UK based sports marketing agency Accretive Sports, serving as chief executive.

Murray said: “Damian’s proven success in sports and expertise in creating innovative global partnerships within the world of football will enable the PFL to activate our Champions League of MMA platform and premium global events for blue chip brands seeking to engage 650 million passionate MMA fans around the world.”

Willoughby added: “I am excited to join the Professional Fighters League and lead its next phase of global commercial growth partnering with premium brands.

“MMA is the growth sport of this decade and PFL as a disruptor is delivering the very best of MMA year-round across its major content franchises distributed to over 160 countries.”

Earlier this month, the PFL promoted James Frewin to managing director of its international operations.

The MMA series has made several executive appointments in recent months, including Frank Huckabone as senior vice president of global partnerships, Michael Chioditti as senior vice president of new business, and Emilio Revelo as senior vice president of media strategy and distribution.