Anthony Joshua and Francis Ngannou confirmed for rumble in Riyadh

Anthony Joshua and Francis Ngannou confirmed for rumble in Riyadh
Anthony Joshua and Francis Ngannou confirmed for rumble in Riyadh

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - If last year’s trajectory is anything to go by, 2024 is set to be groundbreaking one for Professional Fighters League around the globe.

After overseeing a strong finish to 2023, CEO Peter Murray is targeting more growth for PFL, now the second-biggest MMA competition in the world after UFC.

“(We’re) setting our sights for global scale in our next phase of growth in 2024,” he said.

“It’s straightforward at that, we started (last) year with a real focus on putting the pieces and credible athletes in place for our Super Fights Pay Per View division, starting with the announcement of Jake Paul, followed by the signing of Francis Ngannou. And then the other key piece in place from a distribution standpoint for pay per view, we expanded and extended our partnership in the US with ESPN.”

PFL expansion in Europe also exceeded expectations, Murray said.

“The was a success by all metrics, close to a break-even business, breaking records from an audience standpoint in Paris — it was the most viewed MMA event in October and French television history.

“The competition was top notch throughout,” he said. “As it relates to the European fighters, we have real stars. Dakota Ditcheva is an example of that. It’s our system at work.”

Murray is already focused on 2024 and what it will bring in terms of international expansion.

“The next league will launch right there in the Middle East, in Saudi; it’s on,” he said.

“We launch PFL MENA in April, (one) of the national leagues that will be fully funded, along with distribution in place for 2025, that will be PFL Africa, as well as PFL Australia.

“All the pieces are now in place for those two leagues to roll in 2025, and then we’ve set our sights on PFL Latin America  and PFL Asia. So, once again, we will have big, regional international leagues up and running in less than three years. Our vision to create the Champions League of MMA is well underway.”

The vision will include having some of the world’s best MMA fighters on PFL’s roster, and the November merger with Bellator boosted that target overnight.

“We we made the acquisition recently, and (with) the combined roster of the PFL and Bellator, we are second to none at the Professional Fighters League in terms of star talent and top calibre athletes competing in MMA from around the world,” Murray said.

“Over 36 percent of our combined roster going into 2024 are ranked in the top 25 in the world. We have some of the best talent in the the world pound for pound, and athletes hail from all over the world. We have the global platform to compete at the highest level, and pay per view now. In addition, we have athletes that can take on the toughest test in MMA, which is the PFL regular season format.

“We’ll also continue to support the journeys of those top and champion fighters from Bellator,” he said.

“The new Bellator Champions series will launch in March of 2024. We’ll have two title fights on every card, and it will be a major global event — and with the best of the best from Bellator, those reigning champions defending their titles (and) the top-ranked fighters looking take on the champions for the belt, because they’ve earned that right within the this past year’s Bellator system. The journey continues for those fighters and for the brand of Bellator. We couldn’t be more excited about it.”

Francis Ngannou and Jake Paul are among PFL’s biggest name, with the former making splash in the world of boxing after his gallant defeat to Tyson Fury at “Battle of the Baddest” in Riyadh last October.

More fighters of that caliber will be added, according to Murray.

“You’ll see the PFL continue to sign the best of the best in the sport, starting with pay-per-view fighters, fighters who are ranked in the top 10, top 15 in the sport,” he said.

“We’re compelling fighters to go into free agency. Now that we are the growing No.2  powerhouse in the sport, it’s really the UFC or Professional Fighters League, and the PFL is no longer a backup plan for fighters; we’re the aspiration now.”

Having renewed a lucrative deal with ESPN at the end of last year, 2024 will see PFL continue to expand its broadcasting rights, including in the Middle East and Saudi Arabia.

“We’re really proud of our partnership with MBC, a leader in the region, from an overall media standpoint,” he said. “We’re looking forward to an expansive and long-term relationship, supporting and partnering on the PFL vision for the sport.

“We’ll be staging mega-events throughout the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, from pay-per-view events to our World Championship to PFL MENA league, regular season playoff and regional championship competition. And Saudi will be hosting over seven events. So, we’re very excited about building a world-class ecosystem of MMA in the region, the Middle East, and in Saudi in partnership with leaders like MBC.”

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