top of page
  • Cooper Burke

Rival Promotions Bellator and PFL Merge In Biggest Move in MMA History

After much speculation on the future of the second-biggest MMA promotion of the world, the Professional Fighters’ League announced that they purchased Bellator. Former owners Viacom, CBS’ parent company, are expected to retain a minority stake in the company.

The deal has been announced for some time, at least PFL’s acquisition of Bellator. However, it was announced yesterday that the two companies were to merge under one banner. PFL president Donn Davis announced that Bellator athletes would be eligible to compete as PFL athletes.

"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 promotion after selling Strikeforce, a promotion that boasted the Diaz brothers, Dan Henderson, and many others, did not comment. However, Davis and PFL have offered Coker and his team an opportunity to stay on board, per Davis.

Bellator has always had a fantastic product, with athletes such as Fedor Emilianenko, Yaroslav Amosov, and Michael Chandler heading the promotion. However, they were often handicapped by the fact that Viacom, their parent company, refused to air events on CBS, while the UFC and PFL aired on ESPN and ABC. This prevented them from exposing their product to a much wider audience, and by the time they aired on Showtime, there was little interest outside of the MMA community.

The PFL has focused on expanding their brand, and have announced a partnership with Jake Paul to promote his first MMA fight. They also signed former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, who boxed Tyson Fury in Saudi Arabia. He is expected to make his PFL debut in 2024. The PFL hopes to put on champion-versus-champion events between the two promotions.

"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."

A new crop of PFL champions are crowned Friday night on ESPN, with fights in the heavyweight weight class, light heavyweight, welterweight, lightweight, and featherweight weight classes.

They will face off against Ryan Bader, Vadim Nemkov, Jason Jackson, Usman Nurmagomedov, and Patricio Pitbull of Bellator, respectively. In the women’s division, Cris Cyborg is a featherweight champion, while the women’s flyweight champion is Liz Carmouche.

The PFL plans to have five fight “franchises”, which consist of the current PFL League Season, the PFL PPV Superfight League, PFL Challenger Series, PFL International Series, and Bellator.

As for Bellator, their athletes seemed to be blindsided by the move. There were rumors swirling throughout the last few months in terms of the future of the promotion, and yet the fighters had little advance notice. In essence, they were in the same situation the public was.

“We were in the dark just as much as the fans were when it came to the Bellator sale,” number-nine ranked Bellator featherweight Kai Kamaka III told Danny Podolsky and Dave DaCosta on Tuesday MMA talk.

Even though the fighters had little input on the sale, it might be in the best interests of the promotion to move in a new direction. The PFL has a fantastic PR team and works hard to promote the leagues. They look to build a competitor to the UFC, and they have quite the uphill battle against the current leader in MMA. However, the proprietary format and the deep roster of star athletes makes their league extremely attractive. They have the ability to pack out arenas wherever they go, and they put on a show like no other. The Bellator roster should be excited for a new direction and a larger international stage to showcase their incredible talents.

62 views0 comments


bottom of page