PFL makes the deal after months of speculation
After months of rumors that a sale was imminent, Bellator is finally part of the Professional Fighter’s League family—officially. The beleaguered promotion’s future has been in limbo with many wondering what was next after their broadcast partner, Showtime, announced that it was shuttering its ShoSports, effectively leaving Bellator without a home next year.
Now, they have found that home. With a fresh infusion of Saudi Arabian money, the PFL was able to iron out the details of the purchase. In a press release issued today (abbreviated below), they revealed the outline for their plan for the future.
‘Reimagined’ Bellator to continue hosting events
NEW YORK (MONDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2023) – Professional Fighters League announced it has completed the acquisition of Bellator from Paramount Global (NASDAQ:PARA), creating a global powerhouse in mixed-martial arts (MMA) and accelerating the combined company to become the industry co-leader.
PFL has acquired an immense number of top fighters through the Bellator acquisition, and its combined fighter roster is now equal in stature to UFC. Both showcase rosters that are 30% comprised of fighters who are top 25 independently world-ranked in their weight-classes. In addition, PFL + Bellator now has the best roster of women’s fighters in the world. All newly acquired Bellator fighters will become part of the PFL platform and available to compete in PFL fight franchises.
PFL will launch a re-imagined Bellator product in 2024 – the “Bellator International Champions Series.” The Bellator International Champions Series will consist of eight fight events each year hosted in major cities across the globe, and each Bellator event will feature two compelling co-main fights competing for championship belts.
Bellator becomes one of five live fight franchises of the Professional Fighters League: PFL League Season, PFL PPV Super Fights, PFL Challenger Series, PFL International Leagues, and Bellator. Overall, the company can now meet fan and media demand by producing and programming a year-round calendar of live fight content with 30 premium MMA events per year.
PFL as a fighter-first and fan-focused organization plans to stage a landmark mega-event in 2024 – PFL Champions vs. Bellator Champions. The PFL Champions vs. Bellator Champions mega-event will feature the champions of each promotion in all seven weight-classes in a head-to-head epic fight experience.
Details of Bellator events, distribution, partnerships, and management will be announced at a later date.
Donn Davis, Chairman and Founder, and Peter Murray, CEO, continue to lead and operate the combined company.
PFL head talks up Bellator purchase, acquired fighters
In an interview with Finacial Times, Donn Davis didn’t reveal what the deal’s price tag was, but he did note that Paramount (Bellator’s parent company) would be retaining a small, minority share of the promotion.
“This totally changes the MMA landscape overnight,” he said. “You essentially put two number two companies to create a co-leader. The combined PFL-Bellator roster now has 30 per cent of its fighters who are ranked top 25 in the world by Fight Matrix. That’s the same as UFC has in their roster.”
The acquisition comes on the heels of the promotion’s August infusion of $100M in Saudi money, equating to a minority ownership stake for them.
Davis also made a post to his LinkedIn account, relaying more details from the deal. One of the key points is how Bellator will become the fifth branch of their promotion, calling them ‘franchises’. He also noted that Bellator would continue on as a “one off” event product and will launch a ‘reimagined Bellator International Champion’s Series’ that will feature eight events per year.
With their recent signing of Francis Ngannou and the purchase of Bellator, they now view themselves as the clear “MMA co-leader” to the UFC. Davis noted in his LinkedIn post that the transformed company can now rival the UFC since 30% of each of their rosters feature fighters in the top 25 (rankings used were Fight Matrix). That said, John Nash went through Fight Matrix’s rankings and found the UFC has the lion’s share of the top tier fighters.
UPDATE: Champion vs. Champion fights for ‘bragging rights’, not titles
The New York Post’s Scott Fontana provided a few more details on Bellator’s new look. Most notably, PFL Chairman Donn Davis has said that the Champion vs. Champion events will be “for bragging rights” and that both PFL and that Bellator’s belts will remain with the promotion for the foreseeable future.
Also of note, Davis has not yet made plans for the Bellator LW Grand Prix, which was still in progress at the time of the sale. Nor are there any plans in place to expand the number of PFL events or divisions in 2024, however both are likely to see expansion in 2025.
Report: Bellator purchased for $200-$300M stock deal, no cash
Initially thought to carry a purchase price in the neighborhood of $500M, former MMA reporter Al Zullino (who has been on the front edge of news about Bellator’s sale) has stated that the actual sale of the promotion came at a much lower cost. Somewhere closer to $200-$300M.
In an interview on the MMA Hour, Donn Davis explained why the Paramount was willing to lower their price, while also revealing that no money actually changed hands for PFL’s takeover of Bellator’s assets.
“I think what [Paramount] saw with PFL was the opportunity to be part of a leading company going forward,” Davis said on a recent interview on the MMA Hour. “So this was a stock deal, not a cash deal. They’re a small minority owner going forward. So instead, they said, ‘Boy, we don’t really want to sell low, we want to sell low and have an opportunity to make it high.’ And so, therefore, a deal was made.”
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