Saudi Arabia is getting into MMA, buying a $100m ownership stake in PFL

UFC legend Randy Couture previously revealed that he will be meeting with the royal family of Saudi Arabia to help broker a deal with the Professional Fighters Association. A few months later, things became official.

After the previous mega – and Controversial — investments in golf And soccerSaudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund money is now finding its way into mixed martial arts as well.

Saudi Arabia buys a small ownership stake in PFL

As announced by the parties, SRJ Sports Investments, a new vehicle set up by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), has purchased a “minor ownership interest” with the Professional Fighters League.

Apart from owning part of the English Football League, the Saudi Public Investment Fund will also invest in a new Premier League football league in the Middle East and North Africa region that is scheduled to be launched in the second quarter of 2024.

With PFL Europe and now PFL Mena, the federation has announced future expansion plans to host more international leagues and regional tournaments to create the ‘MMA Champions League’ by 2026. It is a clearly designed plan and format from football, which Saudi Arabia has already invested billions in.

according to A (taboo) report from the Financial TimesThe value of the PFL investment deal is $100 million.

follow from sportcal It reported that Saudi Arabia also plans to eventually “host and fund a ‘large number’ of PFL PPV events”, with SRJ Chairman Bandar bin Muqrin now sitting on the PFL board.

Francis Ngannou, the PFL’s biggest MMA signing, already has ties to Saudi Arabia. Prior to this new foray into mixed martial arts, the country also spent a lot of money hosting lucrative boxing bouts, including Nganno’s upcoming bout with Tyson Fury in October.

PFL and SRJ logo in Saudi Arabia

PFL Finance

Investing in Saudi Arabia would likely be a welcome addition to the promotion, which has spent a lot of money in recent years. Aside from the negotiated purses of fighters, the PBA pays $1 million to tournament winners of each weight class, which drives up costs for the company.

Bloody Elbow obtained the financial breakdown from the PFL presentation, which shows the promotion previously estimated to have lost $46.7 million in 2021 alone. That’s from an estimated $10.1 million in revenue and $56.8 million in expenses that year.

These expenses would only go up as they were looking to contract more high-profile free agents like Ngannou, and get ahead with their other superior combat plans.

June 16, 2023, Atlanta, Georgia, USA: ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 16: Francis Ngannou speaks with Randy Couture, Sean O'Connell and Kenny Florian during PFL Atlanta 5 on June 16, 2023 at Overtime Elite Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.  Atlanta USA - ZUMap175 20230616_zsa_p175_124 Copyright: xAaronxLitzx
Zuma / Imago / Aaron Litz

Saudi Arabia denies allegations of sports bleaching

Aside from its recent investments in boxing and now mixed martial arts, Saudi Arabia is also spending billions and billions in other sports.

PIF also purchased the former Newcastle United Football Club and led the merger between LIV Golf Club and the PGA Tour. The government also spent an estimated $1 billion to recruit top soccer stars, including Cristiano Ronaldo who is said to have earned $220 million annually to play for Saudi club Al-Nassr. It also hosts F-1 races and WWE events.

“It’s hard to imagine how the vast majority of their investments will ever pay off,” said the longtime Bloody Elbow editor. Karim Zaidan wrote about Saudi Arabia. “And again, it was never about profit margins.”

Many believe that these huge investments that are receiving international buzz are essentially part of it Saudi efforts for “sports washing” they Terrible human rights record.

As Zidane mentioned in depth, it usually also includes Saudi Arabia Non-discrimination provisions In their deals to make sure that the people involved do not – and cannot – say anything critical of the country.

Naturally, the Kingdom denies all of this. According to the same report on the private sector association from the Financial Times: “Saudi officials insist it is an important component of the plan to diversify the economy beyond oil revenues while attracting tourism and investment.”

Additional reporting from John S. Nash

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About the author

Anton Taboina

Anton Tabuina is Managing Editor of Bloody Elbow. He has been covering mixed martial arts and combat sports since 2009 and has also dabbled in mixed martial arts, Muay Thai and kickboxing.

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