PFL changed the combat sports landscape on Monday by acquiring Bellator MMA, combining arguably the No. 2 and No. 3 MMA promotions into one organization.
After closing the deal, PFL founder Donn Davis touted the promotional power a combined PFL-Bellator roster will have moving forward. Davis believes the new-look PFL will finally chip away at the vice-like grip the UFC maintains as the biggest and most powerful promotion in MMA.
As proof, Davis considers UFC CEO Dana White mentioning the PFL in a few different recent appearances shows that White is “worried” about the competition, especially now that two of his biggest rivals have joined forces. In the long term, Davis believes the PFL will eventually become a “co-leader” alongside the UFC rather than just sitting at the No. 2 position in the sport.
“He’s trying to get Dana to react, I’m guessing,” UFC welterweight Matt Brown said of Davis’ comments on the latest episode of The Fighter vs. The Writer. “To get more clicks or views or more eyes on it. Dana probably won’t even react. It is completely irrelevant.
“If I go to Walmart and someone recognizes me, and their brother asks who I am or their sister asks who I am, they’ll say, ‘He’s an Ultimate Fighter.’ They don’t say he’s an MMA fighter. He’s an ‘Ultimate Fighter.’ It’s like a Kleenex or a Q-Tip. That’s just what it is. UFC owns the sport.”
It’s tough to argue with Brown’s logic considering the stranglehold UFC maintains over the sport, especially since selling to Endeavor in 2016 for more than $4 billion. The UFC remains the only MMA promotion to turn a profit, continuously producing record revenues and sellouts at arenas across the globe, with pay-per-view sales that dwarf every other major competitor outside of a few boxing events per year. It also joined forces with WWE to make an even bigger combined company valued at more than $21 billion.
As much as the PFL may be solidified as MMA’s second-biggest promotion after purchasing Bellator, Brown says that’s a far cry from threatening the UFC’s position at the top.
“It’s not co-leader,” Brown said. “It’s No. 1 and a distant second place. That’s what it is. UFC is synonymous with cage fighting. Period.”
That being said, Brown commends Davis for shooting his shot. PFL stole all the headlines with the Bellator purchase, which happened days before the company is set to promote a championship card pay-per-view to close out the 2023 season.
“He’s trying, you’ve got to give him that,” Brown said of Davis. “It’s a rough situation for them. Hopefully it brings the sport up. That’s all we care about. We’re all old-school MMA fans. We love seeing different promotions have great fighters. I remember PRIDE back in the day, I used to love PRIDE back in the day.
“I think it’s cool. I think it’s good for the sport. It’s cool that they’re making moves. They’re coming up and they’re doing good things. Both of them seem like good organizations. It’s just hard to believe they’re ever going to compete with the UFC. So it’s great to have something else out there that’s still a good quality product, something that’s going to give the fans something else to watch.”
In a landscape filled with the remnants of past MMA promotions come and gone, Brown hopes that the PFL will find long-term success and that the fighters there flourish. There’s certainly nothing wrong with being the second-biggest promotion in MMA, but he doesn’t expect the PFL will ever get much larger than that as long as the UFC still exists.
“They’re never going to be the co-leader,” he said. “They’re a distant No. 2, that’s what it is. But having some different matchups, a little different format [is good for the sport].”