Saudi Arabia enters MMA with ‘US$100m’ PFL investment
- Investment will help PFL sign top fighters and build global fanbase
- MENA league set to start in 2024
- PFL PPV Super Fights being hosted in Saudi Arabia from next year
The Professional Fighters League (PFL) has secured investment from SRJ Sports Investments in a deal that sees Saudi Arabia make its first move into mixed martial arts (MMA).
The tie-up will see SRJ pump more than US$100 million into the PFL, according to Sportico, and funds will be used to support the promotion’s global expansion, helping it recruit top fighters and build its fanbase.
SRJ’s deal for a minority ownership stake in the PFL also sees it become an investor in the new ‘PFL MENA’ regional league, which is due to launch in 2024. The investment company will also support PFL’s expansion in Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Additionally, SRJ and the PFL will develop and host the ‘PFL PPV Super Fights’ series of events in the kingdom, with Saudi Arabia also reportedly underwriting a ‘substantial’ number of PFL PPV events in the coming years.
The PFL’s founder and chairman Donn Davis had revealed earlier this month that the promotion was targeting international investment, saying it would “be a good thing for our company”. The PFL raised US$30 million in a Series E equity funding round led by Waverley Capital back in May 2022. CNBC reported that the investment valued the promotion at US$500 million, up from US$400 million in 2021.
SRJ was officially announced earlier this month and is part of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). The new company aims to accelerate the growth of the sports sector in the kingdom and MENA, with a focus on acquiring and creating new sports events intellectual property (IP), commercial rights of sports competitions and hosting major global events in Saudi Arabia.
The move into MMA, which is SRJ’s first investment, adds to PIF’s wider sports investment portfolio, which includes soccer and golf. Saudi Arabia also has ties to boxing, tennis, Formula One, snooker and horse racing, among others.
“PFL and SRJ share the same vision for mixed martial arts – the biggest star fighters, mega global events, and global expansion to bring the sport to all regions – so we are thrilled and honoured to have SRJ as our investment partner,” said PFL chief executive Peter Murray.
“PFL has become the clear #2 MMA company in just five years, and with SRJ’s backing, the best of PFL is still to come.”
Bander Bin Mogren, SRJ’s chairman, added: “Today marks a new milestone for SRJ as we make our inaugural investment. SRJ is shaping a new era of sports in Saudi Arabia and accelerating the growth of the domestic sports economy. This investment aims to nurture the local and regional talent pool in martial arts, promote gender equality in sport, and bring new opportunities directly to Saudi Arabia and the wider MENA region.”
As well as fresh investment, the PFL could have a new US broadcast partner next year. The promotion’s deal with incumbent rights holder ESPN expires in 2023 and while Davis has said there have been “great conversations” with the Disney-owned network about an extension, interest from other broadcasters has been high.
Davis added that he expects a decision to be made most likely in October.