A One-On-One with CEO Peter Murray
Recently I was fortunate enough to speak with Peter Murray, the CEO of the PFL (Professional Fighter’s League). Despite only being in its third official season, the PFL sits as the number 2 global market leader in MMA, only behind the UFC.
When asked to explain what the PFL is and why it has grown so rapidly, Murray replied, “Professional Fighters League presents the sport of MMA in a true-season format. With elite fighters from around the globe, PFL is the fastest growing and most innovative sports league in the world”.
The PFL is unique among combat sports organizations with its format. The format comprised of a regular season, playoffs, and a championship bout. This format is familiar to most sports fans but is new in the world of Mixed Martial Arts.
The regular season proceeds with two fights for each fighter where the winner earns points. He or she receives 3 points for a victory as well as extra points for a knockout or submission victory. A finish in the first round gets the fighter 6 points, the most possible. Those with the highest point totals make the playoffs, where they attempt to proceed to the finals.
The reasoning behind this is that in the PFL, “every fight matters, and as an athlete-first organization, we must provide world-class competitors with the opportunity to control their destiny. As opposed to other combat sports leagues, we’re not picking which fighters to pair up against one another – every world champion earns that right inside the PFL SmartCage”. There are no politics once the season begins as the schedule is already in place, as no fighter can avoid facing the best if they want to make the playoffs.
The season format is not the only thing the PFL has to offer. Their unique broadcasts and embrace of the future, the “PFL is already implementing several mechanisms that will continue to drive the evolution of the sport – embracing sports betting through our partnership with DraftKings to offer unique prop bets, adopting technology that allows fans to get closer to the action and enhances the broadcast experience”.
Each PFL event includes breakdowns of the odds and props with tips as to where the best bets are. Additionally, the SmartCage technology and the algorithm-based Fighter Performance Rating system allow the fans to get a clearer view of what occurs in the cage.
Room for One More?
Gone are the days where the UFC existed as the sole arbiter of American Mixed Martial Arts. The MMA scene is as competitive as its ever been, both between fighters and the promotions themselves.
However, Peter Murray does not believe the PFL exists as a true rival to the UFC, but a compliment because “with more than 550M fans around the world, there’s room for more than one leader in the sport”. The PFL holds its events on Thursdays and Fridays, while the UFC holds theirs on Saturdays. Murray believes that MMA fans deserve more of what they love, which are great fights.
In his view, “we compliment the UFC” as both organizations give rise to new interest in the sport, forming a symbiotic, rather than competitive relationship.”
When discussing the caliber of competitors in the PFL, Murray pointed out that “The PFL roster has a handful of former world champions and a number of fighters ranked in the top-10 of the sport for their weight division. Look at Kayla Harrison, who’s up there with Amanda Nunes and Cyborg as the most talented women fighters today” and that if they wish to see that for themselves, “Fans should tune into the PFL World Championship on ESPN on October 27th and they’ll see the biggest night in MMA: six world titles and $6M will be up for grabs!”
He even left the door open to cross-promotional fights, saying, “We won’t rule anything out and think the most important thing is to deliver fans the fights they want to see most. We’re open to exploring potential crossover opportunities and fans should be excited about what will be coming next year”.
As mentioned before, the PFL will conclude its third season, October 27, the biggest night in MMA. The card will include six championship fights with a million dollars going to each winner.
Murray loves the stories of the journeys to the championships and highlighted what he is looking forward to seeing, “in the welterweight division you have two former PFL World Champions going up against one another in Ray Cooper III and Magomed Magomedkerimov, who defeated Ray in the 2018 finals. Chris Wade made the PFL semifinals twice but finally broke through to the finals this season when he moved down to the featherweight division and will take on the undefeated Movlid Khaybulaev. Each world championship bout has a great storyline and can’t wait to see these fighters put it all on the line on October 27”.
The October 27 card will feature another fighter, Claressa Shields, the greatest female boxer of all time (the GWOAT). Murray explained that because, “Claressa is the rare athlete who’s so talented and accomplished at a young age, yet wants to continue to challenge herself on her journey to greatness”, she has a real chance to excel at both boxing and MMA simultaneously, her ultimate goal being a champion in two sports at once.
She already has shown the ability to “battle back in the third round to earn an impressive win” in her MMA debut.
Between the six title fights and the return of the GWOAT, October 27 has all it needs to be a great night for MMA.
Murray finished by stating, “There is a lot of exciting things in the works for PFL next year, from international expansion to more events added to the schedule, as well as an upcoming development circuit. Everyone has got to make sure to keep an eye out for the PFL in 2022 and beyond!”.