The Mixed Martial Arts landscape has forever changed. For the first time since the early 2000s, there will be a legitimate competitor to the UFC. PFL President Don Davis announced today that a merger between Bellator and the Professional Fighters League would begin in 2024. Bellator’s roster which includes elite talent like Usman Nurmagomedov and AJ McKee will now be absolved into the PFL brand.
For two years Bellator will operate as a separate entity under the PFL platform, where they plan on having 8 events a year. Current Bellator Champions whose weight classes are not represented in the PFL will compete in the Bellator International Champions League. What can fight fans expect from this merger? President Don Davis stated today that next year the PFL will have champions from each promotion face off in a Champions vs Champions style event. This is fantastic news for fight fans.
With PFL’s recent signing of Francis Ngannou, the promotion needed depth in the Heavyweight Division and now has multiple quality fighters to add to the promotion Heavyweight roster. Bellator Champion Ryan Bader could be a possible opponent for Ngannou when he returns to MMA.
Bellator as an organization had one of the best rosters in the sport, much superior to the PFL’s at the time of this purchase. This is the biggest merger in MMA history since PRIDE sold to the UFC. The purchase of the PRIDE fighting championships in 2007 bolstered the UFC roster into the powerhouse we know today.
In the short term, this deal means exciting new matchups for fight fans that they have always wanted to see. But with this move, the goal of the PFL has become obvious, they want to be a legitimate contender to the UFC product. Within two years expect all of the Bellator roster to be inserted into the PFL playoff tournament bracket.
This would mean that each fighter has the chance to win 1 million dollars each year they are with the promotion. For some athletes, this is exciting news and a possible increase in pay. It will be interesting to see how fast the PFL re-signs top talent like Vadim Nemkov, AJ McKee, and Usman Nurmagomedov. If the PFL is unable to come to terms with any top talent in Bellator watch for the UFC to make a play at free agents.
Dana White and the UFC have not made a public statement yet regarding the sale. The UFC is far and away the leader in all of combat sports even with this purchase. White was dismissive of the PFL last week and would not be open to Co-Promotion.
“We have the top three gates at MSG, they can’t sell a gate,” White state. These are strong words from the UFC president who now has competition on his hands. With a 100 million dollar backing from Saudia Araba the PFL received the funding it needs. The PFL world championships are this Friday on ESPN+. Expect more announcements regarding the sale in the coming days as PFL media day is this week.
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