PFL CEO: There’s room at the top

Mixed martial arts is not a real sport. The Seattle Seahawks don’t get a Super Bowl slot because they sell the most apparel, but in MMA, it can happen – the fans get the fights they most want to see. The Professional Fighters League (PFL) has a different model, with a regular season in which fighters qualify to make the tournament, and the winner in each division making $1,000,000.

PFL CEO Peter Murray spoke recently with Kelsey McCarson for Heavy, and argued that the format will elevate the promotion up to the highest levels, alongside the UFC. Further, Murray noted that basketball fans are offered 6,000 events between the NBA and top-level college games, whereas between the UFC, Bellator, and PFL combined, MMA fans get around 100 events a year.

“We’re going after a very rabid fanbase,” said Murray. “Those rabid fans of MMA…want more MMA content.”

“There’s so much room for more than one leader in this sport. We’re focusing on our opportunity with the PFL, but as we look at the marketplace of 450 million fans, it’s quite simple: We’re not asking fans to choose one organization over another.”

“The promotion based format, we believe, is broken. … Why not make it better?” 

“We dialed in on what works in other sports, and we have the credibility and authenticity with MMA with great fighters and an incredible presentation and production value. But when you overlay a true sports season format, broader sports fans will understand how that works. It’s programmatic. There’s a beginning, middle, and end.”

“For the fighters, it’s all about merit. It’s performance-based. It really speaks to most fighters’ competitive drive. … It’s a meritocracy,” Murray said. “If you win, you advance. If you lose, you go home. There’s drama in that.”

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the drama in the PFL is two-time featherweight tournament winner Lance Palmer threatening to sue the promotion. Still, Murray is firm in his belief that not trying to put on events until 2021 was the right stance.

“There were two guiding principles to the decision,” he said. “First, the safety of our fighters and operational staff.”

“Secondly, from a business perspective, we’ve had so much success over two short years where we executed two seasons with great results, and we thought anything short of a full season format did not make sense for us.”

“We are committed to growing the sport, doing it with distinction and obviously scaling the PFL. We’re well on our way on to many metrics. Globally, we’re the No. 2 MMA organization in the world…in a very short time.”

“We focus relentlessly on the product, delivering a quality and innovative product for a fanbase which is now 450 million strong who are craving for access to premium MMA. They have room to consume more than is being presented to them today, we’re going to fill that void.”

Unfortunately, Murray reminds a little of an Aikido expert, explaining in ardent detail why his art is extremely effective, without proving it. There are a few simple questions. UG, do you find the current promotion format to be broken? Do you wish you had a lot more MMA content available? With the UFC holding events every weekend, and Bellator and ONE returning in force, and dozens more promotions streaming on and UFC Fight Pass, among other aggregation platforms, do you want more MMA content in 2021?

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