SPORTS PFL acquires Bellator, plans champs vs. champs event in...

PFL acquires Bellator, plans champs vs. champs event in 2024

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The PFL has acquired Bellator MMA in a landmark deal for combat sports, PFL chairman Donn Davis announced Monday.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Paramount, the former parent company of Bellator, will remain involved as a minority owner. The Bellator brand will still run as a separate, “reimagined” product in 2024, but all Bellator-signed athletes will immediately be available to compete on PFL platforms. Additionally, PFL is planning a “mega event” in 2024 featuring champion vs. champion matchups between the two promotions.

“The basis of all sports is the quality of competitors,” Davis told ESPN. “With this acquisition, this combined roster is now equal to the UFC in terms of Top 25-ranked talent. The quality of the product, the depth of the product — this makes the PFL a global powerhouse overnight. That’s just not possible in everyday sports. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Bellator president Scott Coker, who joined the company in 2014, did not immediately comment on the acquisition. Davis told ESPN the PFL has offered Coker “and his team at Bellator” an opportunity to stay onboard.

Bellator was founded in 2008 and most recently aired on Showtime Sports. Paramount has decided to opt out of boxing and MMA at the end of 2023, however. Bellator’s final event under its current structure took place last weekend in Chicago.

The PFL, which currently airs on ESPN in the U.S., has shown a commitment to major acquisitions in recent years. It announced a partnership with Jake Paul in January to eventually air the professional boxer and social media influencer’s first MMA fight. The company also signed former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou in 2023. Ngannou, who boxed Tyson Fury last month in Saudi Arabia, is expected to make his PFL debut in 2024.

The PFL will now consist of five fight “franchises,” including its foundational PFL League Season, PFL pay-per-view Super Fight League, PFL Challenger Series, PFL International Leagues and Bellator. According to a news release, the company plans to promote 30 events per year. The Challenger Series focuses on up-and-coming talent, while the International Leagues aspire to find eventual footholds in Europe, Africa and Australia.

The most immediate splash, however, will be the champion vs. champion matchups. The Bellator roster will add top-tier talent to the PFL including lightweight champion Usman Nurmagomedov, featherweight champion Patricio Freire, light heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov and women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg.

The PFL had tried to lure Cyborg to its roster in 2023 so it could book a high-profile bout pitting her against two-time PFL lightweight champion Kayla Harrison. Now that both Cyborg and Harrison are under the same umbrella, Davis told ESPN he believes there is a “100 percent chance” that fight happens.

“The combined PFL and Bellator fighter rosters are second to none in MMA,” PFL CEO Peter Murray said in the statement. “We can’t wait to bring MMA fans what they have been asking for — best vs. best with the PFL Champions vs. Bellator Champions Mega-Event.”

Additional details on events, dates and broadcast deals are expected in the coming months. The acquisition announcement comes days before the PFL’s scheduled 2023 Championship Finals event on Friday in Washington, D.C.

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