On heels of Bellator acquisition, PFL re-ups ESPN deal to stay side-by-side with UFC

The PFL continues to make big moves in its quest to establish itself as the No. 2 MMA promotion in the world behind the UFC.

Thursday, the promotion announced it has renewed its broadcast rights deal with ESPN. In 2024, ESPN will broadcast PFL regular season events and playoff events, along with streaming portions on ESPN+. In addition, ESPN will continue as the PFL’s pay-per-view provider in its new “Super Fight Division.”

Less than two weeks ago, it was announced that PFL and its investment backers had purchased Bellator from Paramount. The plan is to eventually fold Bellator’s roster into the PFL’s, though the Bellator brand apparently will be a slow burn before it is officially shuttered.

“We’ve had five successful seasons on ESPN and we’re excited for the next phase of growth for MMA and the Professional Fighters League with this agreement,” PFL CEO Peter Murray said in a statement. “Our innovative sport-season format, elite roster of athletes and the launch of the PFL PPV Super Fight Division, which will feature some of the world’s greatest combat sports stars such as Francis Ngannou and Jake Paul, are ushering in the new era of MMA as a mainstream global sports entertainment platform.”

The PFL signed Ngannou after he left the UFC as its heavyweight champion in a contract dispute. Paul has been front and center in his criticism of the UFC, UFC CEO Dana White and the promotion’s payment practices. So there already are plenty of backstories in place for a UFC vs. PFL showdown as the world’s top two MMA companies.

And making things just as interesting is the fact the UFC’s broadcast deal is with ESPN, as well. That leaves the longtime cable “worldwide leader” in sports coverage pretty stacked in its potential MMA coverage across its many platforms.

The PFL operates with a season format in which fighters earn points toward playoff qualification. Season winners get a $1 million check. With the addition of Bellator’s roster, the PFL says it now has 30 percent of its fighters in the top 25 world MMA rankings – which rivals the UFC.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie