PFL founder Donn Davis is confident that his promotion can take a big bite out of the UFC’s business.
On Monday morning, Davis ended months of speculation by announcing that his Saudi-backed Professional Fighters League had acquired Bellator MMA. Per a report from ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, the two combat sports organizations will continue to run separate events under their respective brands, but fighters previously signed with Bellator are now eligible to compete in the PFL’s season-long tournaments and as part of its PFL ‘superfight’ series slated to hit pay-per-view in 2024.
The blockbuster deal comes months after UFC CEO Dana White scoffed at the idea that anyone could be legitimately interested in purchasing Bellator.
“Why on God’s green f*cking Earth would anybody buy Bellator?” White said following an installment of the UFC’s Contender Series. “So what we were just talking about with business and making the right moves and making the right decisions, there’s been lots of bad ones — Bellator would be one of the f*cking biggest.
Donn Davis disagrees. He believes that his newly bolstered roster of talent will be more than enough to challenge the UFC’s position as the top dog in mixed martial arts.
“Everybody knows Dana well enough that he only dismisses things that worry him or else he just doesn’t comment,” Davis told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “He didn’t comment on the PFL for four years because he wasn’t worried. He’s commented on the PFL a lot the last six months. You’re worried.
“What specifically worried him about Bellator is the metrics we put on the press release. Thirty percent of that roster ranked in the top 25 per Fight Matrix rankings. This is not Dana gets to rank his own guys, Donn’s ranking his own guys. There’s only one group that ranks all fighters, Fight Matrix, independently. Thirty percent of the UFC roster is top 25-ranked and now our combined company of PFL and Bellator, thirty percent. The same.”
Donn Davis: Everybody knows Dana well enough that he only dismisses things that worry him or else he doesn't comment. He didn't comment on the PFL for 4 years cause he wasn't worried. He's commented on the PFL a lot the last 6 months. #TheMMAHour pic.twitter.com/2iDAobJBDJ
— Jed I. Goodman © (@jedigoodman) November 20, 2023
“Now, to the UFC’s credit, if you look at top 5 in the world, they still own the top 5, one through five. So pay-per-view cards, we couldn’t compete with them right now, which is we’re only going to have two and they have 12. But if you say I’m turning on TV on ESPN Saturday night or I’m going to tune in Friday night to watch this Bellator International Series or PFL, our card’s going to be better.
“Because what they put on this year was ranked 70 [on average Fight Matrix ranking] and what we’re going to put on the next year is ranked 40. That’s why he said, ‘I don’t know why in God’s green Earth anybody’s buying this,’ because he’s smart and he knows that.
“UFC ain’t the NFL. We’re not the XFL. But he wants you to think that. And it’s just a matter of time before that starts to get more well known, then we’re not No. 2, we’re co-leader. He doesn’t want that. That’s what’s going on.”
In 2024, PFL will launch the Bellator International Champions Series which will consist of eight fight events each year hosted in major cities across the globe. Each Bellator event will feature two co-main fights competing for championship belts.
Davis also revealed that there will be a “mega event” in 2024 with plans to promote a card pitting PFL champions against Bellator MMA champions.
Watching Donn Davis’ full interview on The MMA Hour below:
Transcription by MMA Fighting