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PFL Partners with Jake Paul, Nakisa Bidarian to Launch New PPV Division

PFL Partners with Jake Paul, Nakisa Bidarian to Launch New PPV Division

January 18, 2023

PFL Partners with Jake Paul, Nakisa Bidarian to Help Launch New PPV Division

The Professional Fighters League (PFL) recently made headlines when it announced an extensive partnership with Jake Paul. 

While the mainstream sports media has largely focused on the multi-fight deal the social media influencer turned professional fighter signed with the MMA promotion and the possibility of a mega-bout with former UFC headliner Nate Diaz, Paul –along with business partner Nakisa Bidiarian– are expected to have a greater impact on the company in their roles as co-founders of PFL’s new pay-per-view (PPV) Super Fight Division.

Having a PPV platform is necessary for the promotion to attract the best and most marketable fighters in the world and for the company to grow its bottom line, and PFL chairman and co-founder Donn Davis believes the duo can “dramatically accelerate” the timeline for its success. “We’ve added the most unique, powerful and creative marketer in combat sports today in Jake…and one of five people in the world who truly understands the metrics, financials and landscape of pay-per-view and MMA in Nakisa,” he said. 

PFL concluded its fourth season in ’22 having met all of the internal benchmarks set for the business’ first chapter. The promotion touts paid media rights partnerships in 140 countries, has managed to capture

and cultivated a roster of fighters on par with those who fight for their better-known competitor on cable or streaming. 25% of its roster is Top 25 world ranked by Fight Matrix.

Of course, the UFC’s best and most marketable fighters fight on PPV. 

Chapter two will focus on launching a new PPV division and global expansion. “90% of the 630 million MMA fans worldwide are not in the U.S.,” Davis said.

PFL plans to roll out a series of regional leagues that will bring the sport directly to enthusiasts abroad. The first, PFL Europe, launched last week.

PFL introduced a new PPV Super Fight Division as part of its announcement with Paul. The social media star is the first fighter signed to compete within it. 

The company envisions the PPV division serving two roles. The first is as a profit generator. “When you look at the UFC bottom line, [PPVs] are 50% profit,” Davis said. 

PFL’s shared economic model (more on that in a bit) will keep it from realizing comparable returns. However, PPV can still be a lucrative business for the challenger promotion. “In boxing, splits are closer to 75/25 in favor of the athlete," Bidarian said. "But unfortunately, given how fragmented the sport is, it is a longer-term process to create the right organizational structure that elevates all boxers.”

Davis believes having a PPV division will also lift the overall perception of the company. “When you have the biggest names in the world [fighting under the banner], they add an overall patina to the regular fight product,” he said. 

Now in its fifth year, PFL feels as if it has the infrastructure and distribution necessary to launch a PPV division. “The only thing we’re missing is star PPV fighters,” Davis said.

But the PFL co-founder believes an opportunity exists to change that. He said there are roughly a dozen fighters in the world that fans are willing to pay to see and that many of them are unhappy in their current deals and would “like an alternative.” 

Up until now, there really was nowhere else for them to go. Davis said the UFC has been “the only serious pay-per-view company in MMA.”  

PFL held its first PPV event in November ’22, a contractually obligated card featuring Kayla Harrison versus Larissa Pacheco.

PFL is positioning its PPV super fight division as that alternative. But it will be the company’s home for any MMA fight fans are willing to pay to see. “It could the number one and number three ranked fighters in the world straight up or Jake Paul and Nate Diaz,” Davis said. 

The latter will undoubtedly be easier to put together considering Paul’s relationship with the company, Diaz’s status as an unrestricted free agent and just about every top fighter being under contract with the UFC.  

But Bidarian is convinced PFL will be able to attract star fighters as their existing deals expire. "The best/most marketable fighters will embrace PFLs fighters first ethos, commitment to at least a 50/50 revenue share and flexibility around brand partnerships. PFL has demonstrated its ability to produce premium MMA content and has the same distribution partner as UFC. Add Jake and I to that, and you have a powerful partnership that is a viable alternative to any other MMA promotion.”

Former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou recently became a free agent. His mother was spotted with a PFL shirt on last week. 

A select few fighters also have an opportunity to participate in PFL as partners. 

Paul and Bidarian received minority equity stakes in the company as part of their respective compensation packages. 

Speculation exists the PFL’s economic model will end up forcing the UFC to change its structure. The logic is if there were to be a mass exodus of talent the company would have no other choice.

But Davis doesn’t pretend to think PFL is going to flip every fighter. “Some fighters will stay there and some fighters will come here,” he said. 

And he doesn’t envision the loss of a few fighters driving the UFC to change its model either. “We’ve always viewed the market as there will be two or three winners…and different companies will have different models for talent and products,” Davis said. 

It’s fair to wonder if PFL’s core league product will be negatively influenced by the PPV Super Fight division. But it shouldn’t be. Few fighters on the current roster are going to make the leap to PPV, and Davis argues the division's existence will raise fighter levels across the board. 

PFL leadership is convinced the continued growth of its league and the PPV division will ultimately help it close the gap with UFC. “PFL is already the #2 MMA company, and with Jake promoting our new PPV Super Fight Division, you’re going to see PFL emerge to become a co-leader in MMA.” Davis said.

If he’s right, the fighters who opt to take an equity stake will be rewarded handsomely.