Just over two weeks away from the start of the playoffs, PFL CEO Peter Murray is preparing for the biggest month in company history. He was generous enough to give me a half-hour of his time to talk about how the newest major MMA promotion is ready to make a name for itself at a large scale.
Featuring a regular season and playoffs, the PFL puts a different spin on combat sports. After the regular season, the top four fighters in each division advance to the playoffs. The playoffs feature two semi-final fights at each of the six weight classes. The winner of the two semi-final fights will face off in championship bouts.
The fighters who win the title on the championship card are paid $1 million each in prize money. PFL Playoffs 1 kicks off on Friday, August 19th at 5:30 EST. and is headlined by former UFC Champion Rory McDonald taking on reigning PFL champion Ray Cooper III. It will move forward on Thursday, August 19th which will be headlined by Kayla Harrison, and the semi-finals wrap up on Friday, August 27th. The championship card will take place later this year. Although, there has not been a date or venue announced yet.
Murray: PFL “Absolutely” Interested In Crossover PPV Events Next Season
The PFL is introducing a Pay-Per-View platform in 2022 per the NY Post. With that comes potential spots for the PFL to grow its brand. However, in today’s combat sporting world, that means getting eyeballs becomes even more important. We have seen YouTuber Jake Paul box ex-NBA player Nate Robinson and former Bellator champion Ben Askren and take the combat sports world by storm.
When asked about single technique events like boxing or grappling only events, Peter Murray said,
“We are super focused on MMA but I can tell you that next season, we believe that there is a role for crossover in particular tied to PPV.”
This tends to lead to the question of celebrity boxing, potentially involving the enigmatic and controversial Jake and Logan Paul.
Murray did not pour cold water on that thought either. He said, “I’m not going to speak to the talent but absolutely in terms of top talent looking to compete on a global stage. MMA is the priority — but as I said — crossover will be a part of the mix as well.”
They already have a former boxer and current PFL fighter, Clay Collard, on their roster. Perhaps the stage could be set for a boxing fight involving Clay Collard. Of course, there is always the potential to bring their biggest male star Anthony “Showtime” Pettis into the mix. Pettis is as exciting of a striker as we have ever seen in a ring. While Logan Paul has been linked to Anderson Silva, there is little doubt that Anthony Pettis vs. Logan or Jake Paul would be a major PPV draw.
However, the most likely scenario for a crossover event will be for their biggest women’s star Kayla Harrison. She is undefeated; it’s hard to find opponents for her. She is at a weight class of 155-lbs, making it even more difficult to find her competition.
Furthermore, there could be an opportunity to co-promote with the UFC and have her fight Amanda Nunes or Bellator against Cris Cyborg. Either way, the PFL’s willingness to do business with any party on the PPV level is a major step in the right direction for the promotion.
Investment In Tech Fueling Innovation In Sports Betting
Sports betting is a growing market — that much we know. But we have not seen a sport embrace sports betting as the PFL has. At any given moment during a broadcast we will see PFL personalities giving out betting picks, talking about line movement, and discussing the most likely method of victory bets for fighters.
The PFL’s open acceptance of sports betting into their product has been a breath of fresh air. CEO Peter Murray said, “sports betting plays a major role in MMA as part of the overall experience. From our perspective, as betting continues to get approved state by state, we see that as a very positive dynamic in the sport.”
Betting on the PFL is a whole different ballgame. Thanks to their partnership with DraftKings Sportsbook, the PFL is offering unique prop bets that cannot be bet on in any other MMA promotion. The PFL offers a suite of unique prop bets on their platforms such as the fastest strike in a given fight or round, fastest punch or kick throughout the night, and many more.
It will be interesting to see what new fun and exciting bets they add to their suite. Imagine being able to bet on a fighter to submit someone via rear naked choke or knockout via head kick.
The PFL sure seems like they will be open to these exotic high-risk type bets. Murray said, “We are excited about innovation. Not only delivering innovation in MMA as a product and experience to the fans but also for those super avid fans who are engaging in betting and new prop bets that are unique to the PFL.
PFL Eyeing A Solution To Bad Judging Decisions?
Several weeks ago, the PFL revealed a new technology that could change the way fights are scored. Thanks to the above-mentioned SmartCage Technology, the Fighter Performance Rating metric can be born. The metric gives a score between 1-100 to determine who they believe won the fight. For a better understanding of how this metric works, check out the embedded video below. Hint: it’s awesome.
Not only does the PFL have a proprietary metric to get an idea of who is winning a fight, but they are also getting fan input as well. Fans can now collect tokens on the PFL app and vote on who won each round of a fight and its winner. Moreover, their expert broadcast team constantly weighs in featuring Randy Couture, Kenny Florian, and Sean O’Connell.
There have been plenty of presumed controversial judge’s decisions in the last few weeks. These include — but are not limited to — a split decision win for TJ Dillashaw over Cory Sandhagen in the UFC and Gleison Tibau winning a split decision against PFL contender Rory McDonald.
When asked if FPR results or fan votes could be made available to the fighters in between rounds, Murray offered a few insights.
- State athletic commissions do not allow for fighters to have this kind of data readily available to them
- If it were allowed, every state would need to clear it — which would be very difficult to accomplish
When dealing with a potentially sport-altering rule change like that, you cannot do it in just Nevada or just California. This type of overhaul would require every state’s approval in order to do it properly.
What we do know is that the PFL has shown itself as an incredibly innovative organization. PFL’s investment in technology is going to change the sport. Whether it is changing the biggest problem in the sport — bad judging — or making the sport more aesthetically pleasing; it is clear that the PFL is preparing to lead the pack.
Murray was keen to say “We try to solve stuff at the PFL.” If they were to solve rampant problems with judge’s scorecards, MMA fans and bettors would be eternally grateful.
Preparing For A War On Talent In MMA?
Talent in the PFL is the most important part of building an MMA promotion. This promotion is growing at a rapid pace and there are plenty of advantages to getting into the PFL. For starters, it is clear how to earn a title shot in the PFL. Murray says, “It is called earn your way.” The PFL has an easy formula to success. If fighters win their matches, they move forward in the bracket, earn a title shot, and win $1 million.
Fighters in other promotions have been frustrated with this process in the past. Take Leon Edwards for example. He is currently on a 9 fight win streak in the UFC but has yet to receive a title shot. This would not happen in the PFL. The transparency that they offer is a recruiting tool to bring in major fighters.
Furthermore, the PFL has a contract with ESPN to air its fights during primetime on the largest sports network in the country. Murray explained that the audience and transparency could give the PFL a leg up on the competition by saying, “The PFL gives fighters an alternative to compete on a global stage against top competition with a transparent opportunity to become champion.”
As of February, the UFC employed 724 active fighters on their roster. Its near monopoly on talent in the space is unprecedented. For reference, Bellator currently employs just over 220 fighters on their roster with the PFL employing 69 fighters. The UFC is seemingly playing keepaway with their talent from other promotions. This could be because the PFL is overhauling its roster at such a rapid pace. According to Murray, 40% of the talent year over year is replaced with new fighters.
At the end of the day, these athletes are prizefighters. The PFL offering a clear path to serious money and massive exposure on ESPN bodes extremely well for them long-term. The MMA world has its eye on the PFL during the month of August. Sports bettors, fighters, and fans will all be waiting to see how the promotion shows itself off on the brightest lights.