MMA goes mainstream with PFL ESPN deal

The Professional Fighters League (PFL) is gearing up for Season 2. The mixed martial arts organization, which just signed a multiyear deal with ESPN, is becoming increasingly popular, according to PFL CEO Peter Murray.

“It really illustrates … that MMA is mainstream with Disney, with ESPN, committing to be the destination of combat,” Murray told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo on Tuesday.

The PFL debuted last year at Madison Square Garden in New York City and is the first MMA sport format where individuals compete in a regular season, a “win or go home” post-season and championship.

In its inaugural season it signed an initial TV deal with NBCUniversal’s NBCSN sports network and featured a number of celebrity backers, including Kevin Hart, MGM Television Chairman Mark Burnett and famed motivational speaker Tony Robbins.

Under the new deal with ESPN, all 10 events in 2019 will air live across ESPN2 and ESPN+ in the U.S. in addition to TSN in Canada.

Six five-hour PFL regular season events will take place on Thursday nights in addition to three playoff events that will take place in October.

“We are on primetime Thursday nights this spring starting in May — we really own that night with a differentiated product,” said Murray. “We have a sports league format no different than the NFL, the NBA.”

In addition, Murray said fans can expect the “next evolution of the sport” by leading with innovation, that can track real-time data of athletes on air while they’re in action, including miles per hour on punches and kicks to impact and calories burned.


PFL fighter and two-time Olympic gold medalist, Kayla Harrison, said she looks forward to seeing how she performs.

“I think it would be interesting to see sort of what output I have in the cage – how my striking is, how hard it is, how fast it is, how accurate it is,” she told Bartiromo. “I think for me, I mean, I know when I throw them, you know, I hit them with the earth. But can I punch hard?”