Saudi investment group acquires minority equity stake in PFL for reported $100M

Saudi Arabia’s ongoing investment spree in the sports industry has taken a new turn, with the country purchasing a minority ownership stake in the PFL.

UFC legend Randy Couture had previously hinted at negotiations between Saudi Arabia’s royal family and the PFL, and now the deal has been officially confirmed.

Known for their substantial investments in golf and football, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), is now entering the realm of MMA.

The newly formed entity SRJ Sports Investments, backed by the PIF, has acquired a minor equity ownership stake in the PFL. This strategic investment also includes plans to support a new PFL MENA league, scheduled to launch in the second quarter of 2024.

With the addition of PFL MENA to its portfolio, the promotion aims to expand its global reach. The PFL’s ambitions include hosting multiple international leagues and regional tournaments, with the ultimate goal of creating a “Champions League of MMA” by 2026. This plan takes inspiration from the format of football leagues, which aligns with Saudi Arabia’s significant investments in football.

The financial aspect of the deal is substantial, with the PFL investment valued at $100 million, as reported by the Financial Times.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia has plans to further its involvement in the promotion by hosting and funding a significant number of PFL pay-per-view (PPV) events. This move is exemplified by Bander Bin Mogren, Chairman of SRJ Sports Investments, now joining the PFL board.

Interestingly, the PFL’s biggest MMA signee, Francis Ngannou, already has connections with Saudi Arabia. The country has previously invested in hosting lucrative boxing matches, including Ngannou’s upcoming crossover against Tyson Fury in October.

The investment from Saudi Arabia arrives as a timely boost for the PFL, considering its considerable expenses. In addition to salaries, the promotion awards $1 million to the winners of each weight class tournament, contributing to increased costs.

In terms of finances, the PFL has faced challenges. Internal documents reveal a reported loss of $46.7 million in 2021, attributed to $10.1 million in revenue and $56.8 million in expenses. Despite these financial hurdles, the PFL remains committed to signing high-profile free agents like Ngannou and executing their plans.

The international community has raised concerns about Saudi Arabia’s intentions behind these high-profile investments, suspecting them of “sportswashing” their human rights record. While Saudi Arabia denies these claims, it continues to make significant strides in various sports, such as football, golf, and now MMA, as part of its broader economic diversification strategy.

As Saudi Arabia’s influence in the world of sports continues to grow, the MMA community and global audience await the unfolding impact of this investment in the PFL.