Cape Town – African mixed martial arts fans and athletes are in for a treat in 2022 as the Professional Fighters League (PFL) is set to make its mark on the continent.
The promotion confirmed in an exclusive interview with Independent Media and MzansiMMA that it aims to recruit more African athletes in the near future, but also set in motion plans to host events on the MotherLand.
“We are really excited about the continent of Africa, the opportunity for mixed martial arts is massive on a number of levels throughout key regions and countries including South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria,” says PFL CEO, Peter Murray who will be touching down with an executive team in January to get the ball rolling on their plans for Africa.
The PFL is one of the biggest MMA promotions in the world, ranked right up there with the likes of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Bellator.
The American-based promotion is home to some of combat sport’s most respected and recognised stars including the likes of former UFC lightweight champion, Anthony Pettis, two-time Olympic Judo gold medalist, Kayla Harrison and highly-decorated boxing champion and Olympic (also two-time) gold medalist, Claressa Shields.
The PFL also recently signed one of South Africa’s elite mixed martial artists, former UFC athlete, Don Madge who successfully made his debut last month.
In April 2021, former NFL running back Marshawn Lynch and global icon and rapper Wiz Khalifa invested in the Professional Fighters League on advisory and ownership levels.
As per wikipedia, earlier this year, the PFL also announced a $65 million dollar financing round, which expanded its total funding to $175 million. The funding round was led by Ares Capital, Elysian Park Ventures, and Knighthead Capital and was intended to help the league expand internationally and accelerate growth.[
“We’re very bullyish on the market and the potential for MMA and the PFL,” says Murray.
In 2021, we had a fairly expansive distribution of our season which we wrapped up last month. “Distribution partnerships with the likes of ESPNMMA, NBC and more. Now, we are excited about expanding the number of events overall to distribute through the continent of Africa,” says Murray.
The expansion will see the number of season events increase from ten to eleven annually.
“Come February and March 2022, we will also be launching a new property called the PFL Challenger Series where we will have emerging professional athletes from around the world fighting to get into the season which then could open the door to that $1 million dollar cash prize.”
The Challenger Season will consist of eight events running over eight weeks, taking place on Friday nights.
“Each event will see a contract being handed out to a deserving fighter, and fans can rest assured that we will be signing athletes from across Africa, not just for the Challenger Series, but also for the annual fighting season, too.”
When asked if the Challenger Series is something similar to that of the Dana White Contender Series - a show that gives fighters a chance to sign with the UFC - Murray responded:
“Picture the Contender Series meeting American Idol, meets PFL.
“Icons from MMA, icons from broader combat sport and sport in general, as well as entertainment influencers will be on our panel of judges as well as providing commentary, context and driving conversation at each event weighing in on who they believe should get a contract.”
One of the biggest highlights of the PFL’s “African plan” is the staging of events on the continent.
Earlier this year, UFC President Dana White got the world buzzing when he confirmed that the UFC are looking to host an event in Africa in 2022.
With the growth spurt of MMA in Africa, and with the UFC having three African champions in the form of Francis Ngannou, Israel Adesanya and Kamaru Usman, the world has has turned its attention to the potential that Africa has to offer not only in terms of volume of athletes (and the support and fans they bring) coming through, but also the incredible talent that has and still is being unlocked in the MotherLand. A reality that the PFL understands completely.
“We not only have expanded content to distribute, but we are very much looking forward to hosting events in Africa. We have a number of conversations going on, and we are excited about the market,” says Murray who confirmed that their immediate attention is drawn to the DRC.
“Dynamic cities such as Kinshasa ... we think the time is right to bring sports and entertainment spectacle to Congo and throughout the continent. We’re excited to bring big events to the continent and the potential of it all. And that is a priority for the company. There is great history with martial arts and MMA in Africa.”
Murray added that the promotion plans on signing 100 new fighters in 2022, that would include for the season and the new Challenger Series.
“President and head of fighter operations, Ray Sefo is already having a number of conversations with fighters, promoters and managers throughout Africa, looking to provide opportunities for athletes.”
“In 2022 the PFL is coming to Africa in a very meaningful way. It all starts with our executive team - including myself - taking a tour to Africa to start laying the groundwork to help build the sport more from grassroots level. There are some exciting plans that we will be executing in Africa next year,” added Murray who confirmed that Don Madge - and other African fighters - will play a role in helping roll out the PFL Africa plan.