Brett Okamoto, ESPN Staff WriterNov 20, 2023, 11:58 AM ET
- MMA columnist for ESPN.com
- Analyst for "MMA Live"
- Covered MMA for Las Vegas Sun
The PFL has acquired Bellator MMA successful a landmark woody for combat sports, PFL president Donn Davis announced connected Monday.
Terms of the woody were not disclosed, but Paramount, the erstwhile genitor institution of Bellator, volition stay progressive arsenic a number owner. The Bellator marque volition proceed to tally arsenic a abstracted "reimagined" merchandise successful 2024, nevertheless each Bellator-signed athletes volition instantly beryllium disposable to vie connected assorted PFL platforms. Additionally, PFL is readying a "mega event" successful 2024, which volition diagnostic champion vs. champion matchups betwixt the 2 companies.
"The ground of each sports is the prime of competitors," Davis told ESPN. "With this acquisition, this combined roster is present adjacent to the UFC successful presumption of Top 25-ranked talent. The prime of the product, the extent of the merchandise -- this makes the PFL a planetary powerhouse overnight. That's conscionable not imaginable successful mundane sports. This was a erstwhile successful a beingness opportunity."
Bellator president Scott Coker, who joined the institution successful 2014, did not instantly remark connected the acquisition. Davis told ESPN the PFL has offered Coker "and his squad astatine Bellator" an accidental to enactment onboard.
Bellator was founded successful 2008 and astir precocious aired connected Showtime Sports. Paramount decided to opt retired of boxing and MMA astatine the extremity of 2023, however. Bellator's last lawsuit nether its existent operation took spot past play successful Chicago.
The PFL, which presently airs connected ESPN successful the U.S., has shown a committedness to large acquisitions successful caller years. It announced a concern with Jake Paul successful January, to yet aerial the nonrecreational boxer and societal media influencer's archetypal MMA fight. The institution besides signed erstwhile UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou successful 2023. Ngannou, who boxed Tyson Fury past period successful Saudi Arabia, is expected to marque his PFL debut successful 2024.
The PFL volition present dwell of 5 combat "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 release, the institution intends to beforehand 30 events per year. The Challenger Series focuses connected up-and-coming talent, portion the International Leagues aspire to find eventual footholds successful Europe, Africa and Australia.
The astir contiguous splash, however, volition beryllium the champion vs. champion matchups. The Bellator roster volition adhd top-tier endowment to the PFL's, including lightweight champion Usman Nurmagomeodv, featherweight champion Patricio Freire, airy heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov and women's featherweight champion Cris Cyborg, among others.
The PFL tried to lure Cyborg specifically to its roster successful 2023, successful bid to publication a high-profile bout against two-time PFL lightweight champion Kayla Harrison. Now that some Cyborg and Harrison are nether the aforesaid umbrella, Davis told ESPN helium believes determination is simply a "100 percent chance" that combat happens.
"The combined PFL and Bellator combatant rosters are 2nd to nary successful MMA," said PFL CEO Peter Murray successful a released statement. "We can't hold to bring MMA fans what they person been asking for -- champion vs. champion with the PFL champions vs. Bellator Champions Mega-Event."
Additional details connected events, dates and broadcast deals are expected successful the coming months. The announcement of the acquisition comes conscionable 4 days earlier the PFL's scheduled 2023 Championship Finals lawsuit connected Nov. 24 successful Washington D.C.