Professional Fighters League seeks to grow Saudi, regional talent with MENA expansion

Talented Saudi and regional fighters will get the chance to master the craft as the number one fastest-growing mixed martial arts (MMA) company is eyeing a MENA expansion with Saudi Arabia as a base, Professional Fighters League (PFL) founder Donn Davis said on Thursday.

PFL’s regional expansion comes as the Kingdom gears up to host its first-ever mega MMA event on Saturday, February 24.

Held at the Kingdom Arena, the pay-per-view Super Fight will see champions from PFL go head-to-head against Bellator title champions after PFL’s acquisition of Bellator.

“We are very committed to being successful in the region,” Davis told Al Arabiya English in an interview.

“The PFL Mideast league launches in April and that stays, lives and breads here. All [fighters will be] Mideast fighters and they get crowned a champion each year. And it will have four events each and every year,” Davis said. The four events will be two regular seasons, one playoff, and one championship.

Professional Fighters League (PFL) founder Donn Davis. (Supplied)
Professional Fighters League (PFL) founder Donn Davis.

“So, think of it as the region will be able to enjoy their own league the Mideast League, all events, all prime time, all local, and then they’ll be able to enjoy one mega global event each year,” he said.

With rising local Saudi fighters like Abdullah al-Qahtani, the league, Davis explained, will offer an opportunity for local top fighters to get global exposure in an unprecedented manner.

The inaugural season for PFL MENA will feature 32 fighters.

“So, anyone in the region now has a big stage to develop their career. It’s no different than [PFL] Europe, where top European fighters get to develop against other top European fighters, and the winner gets to go to the PFL global stage each year,” he said.

“So, the Saudi fighters or the Mideast fighters have the opportunity to move up to PFL global as they develop their craft and emerge.”

As for the fans, PFL MENA is important because they will get to see their own local talent develop and grow and also get the chance to see the biggest names in the sports come to the Kingdom, Davis added.

PFL is the world’s number two MMA company, with distribution to more than 160 countries worldwide and a global audience of 600 million fans.

The league has fighters from 25 countries. In addition to Saudi Arabia’s al-Qahtani, it includes Mostafa Rashed Neda and Hattan AlSaif, who made history after becoming the first Saudi Arabian woman fighter to be signed by a global MMA promotion.

PFL’s rise in the Kingdom is happening with the partnership of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund’s SRJ Sports Investments company.

One of the company’s main investment agreements has been with PFL and that granted SRJ a minority equity ownership stake in PFL.

Davis said that it was important for PFL to find the right local partner to bring the vision they had to life and develop the future of the sports.

“MMA is a growing sport, but also a new sport [that] takes time to develop the right way. This is the first ever MMA event held in the Kingdom, yet, this event is sold out for Saturday,” he said.

“We were able to do that because of having a great partner. So, this will be a premium fight, it will be a fantastic fight but will also be commercially successful because of our partner.”

As PFL works to compete with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Davis explained that PFL’s acquisition of Bellator was very important for acquiring the fighter talent.

“We were able to double the number of top 25 ranked fighters that we had. Bellator has been around for over a decade and so we now have 80 fighters ranked in the top 25 of the world. Bellator doubled that number,” he said.

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