UFC’s stranglehold on MMA threatened by new fighter friendly league

The presence of mixed martial arts as a mainstream sport has never been stronger. The fighters and promotion have never enjoyed this kind of front and center attention. The UFC is a four billion dollar product. They are trying and succeeding in cross-promoting their biggest star into boxing.

The first ever nine-digit paycheck for an MMA fighter is on the horizon. Bellator’s roster is stronger than ever, packed full with absolute legends and top prospects. UFC title contenders have left to Bellator for larger payouts and better promotional attention. Kickboxing is even starting to lay down roots in America.

Competition leads to innovation and one fight promotion is looking to do just that. MMA journalist Mike Russell revealed that 60% of the company had been sold to a group of new investors. The World Series of Fighting’s new owners have created the Professional Fighters League (PFL). The new league, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C., will absorb WSOF’s fighter roster and is set to debut in January 2018. While the name leaves much to be desired, the idea behind the PFL is innovative.

The PFL is offering a ten million dollar total prize pool. One million dollars to each of its inaugural league champions spanning seven divisions and the remaining three million dollars going toward the other competitors. This move could bring mixed martial arts into the prime time arena of the traditional American sports. The best talent will gravitate towards the biggest financial opportunities. The Professional Fighters League is cooking up the formula to lure them in.

Current undefeated featherweight WSOF champion Andre Harrison and had this to say about the transition,

“Last week I watched the 10-time flyweight UFC champion Demetrious Johnson get on the mike after his win and say he wants one million dollars for his next fight. If he is calling for a million and I now have the potential to make a million dollars – yeah, I think that is an excellent opportunity.”

Andre Harrison

Mighty Mouse is the most complete, least flawed fighter currently in the game. Arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter, DJ is considered by most in the MMA community to posses the truest form of mixed martial arts technique.

“Financial stability is huge for professional fighters. People don’t know the time and money that goes in to training camps, coaches, training partners and nutrition. Steady income from fighting will allow me and others a chance to become the absolute best we can be.”

Andre Harrison

Harrison is referring to the monthly paychecks and formatted fighting schedule. PFL president of fighting operations Ray Sefo, released an email stating these future changes.

The PFL is potentially on to something. If their current unbeaten featherweight champ is on board, there are fighters all over the world right now that are thinking the same thing. If a fighter thinks he/she is the best in the world, that individual will jump at the chance to make a million dollars potentially and more over the course of a fight season.

The PFL is looking to lay the ground work for the next big step in mixed martial arts: legitimate, mainstream sports consideration. The Professional Fighters League is looking to bridge the discrepancy between fighter payout and ownership payout. In the end, that is a good thing for fighters and if the promotion delivers on what they promise, the best fighters will look to fight for them.

Is a rebranding and attempting to break the mold on how the world views combat sports a gamble? Sure. But there are 4.2 billion reasons to take that gamble.

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