MMA league PFL plot UK expansion to take 'innovative' NFL-style play-off format international

PROFESSIONAL FIGHTERS LEAGUE are planning an international expansion with their unique seasonal fighting format set to launch in the UK.

The American MMA promotion have fighters compete in a playoff system consisting of five rounds with the winner receiving the championship and a $1million (£750,000) cheque.

Formerly known as World Series of Fighting, PFL have staged two seasons since their transition in 2018 which consists of six regular season cards, three play-offs and a one finale spectacle across six divisions.

The coronavirus pandemic forced this year's to be axed, but the company recently launched their OTT app, offering fans all of PFL's prior fight events on demand.

Promoter Pete Murray has big plans for an international expansion, which will carry into the UK with the promise of more British fighters to join Manchester's Brendan Loughnane on their roster.

Murray told SunSport: "Europe is critically important, there is an incredible demand for the sport as well as in the UK.

"We are planning for international expansion, including the UK and Europe but also expanded events to be staged in the US and internationally.

"We're seeing a growing interest and momentum for PFL fans in the UK and Britain. We are excited Brendan Loughnane is part of the PFL family.

"We will be signing additional fighters from the UK and we think there are unbelievable athletes coming out of the UK."

PFL act as a rival to the UFC – regarded as MMA's top flight tier – as well as Bellator, who have focussed on staging several shows in Europe.

But Murray stresses PFL's seasonal format helps them stand out from what is becoming a crowded and ever growing market.

He said: "We're not saying our version is better than the other, but we're saying there's a lot of that other stuff that's event one-off.

"No one has really grabbed hold of this sport to specialise it and put it on a platform and a format that is absolutely deserves.

"In MMA there is room for more than one league, clearly, and we're not an event one-off company we're a true sport.

"We're onto the next evolution of growth of the sport and PFL will be a leader of that but we will be famous for scaling our format but we will also do special events as an extension of PFL.

"After the launch of the OTT platform we are now a leading global sport and we have a differentiated format."

PFL believe they are "leading with innovation" compared to their rivals.

They measure all fighters' hand speed with kicking to follow by proprietary sensors in what they dub 'Smart Cage'.

But Murray – who last year welcomed former UFC welterweight champion Rory MacDonald – warned more high-profile signings are still to come.

Bellator have in the past profited from veteran stars or big attractions headlining shows, with Kimbo Slice's 2015 win over Ken Shamrock reaching a record 2.4m viewers.

And acquiring well recognised talent will be part of PFL's plan going forward as well as building and developing rising contenders.

Murray explained: "The PFL is leading with innovation, we'll make others better but that's OK, we want to grow the sport.

"We're in the talent game. No matter the format you need really talented fighters and great fights, no matter what.

"We're now attracting, after two seasons and twelve $1m championship cheques, some of the most top ranked talent in the world."

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