It’s a new year, and Professional Fighters League CEO Peter Murray says his organization is ready for a fight in 2022 — a fight to conquer more space in the MMA world.
Murray — a matter-of-fact guy — says without an ounce of hyperbole: “We are poised to become a co-leader.” And that would be a co-leader with you know who… The UFC.
The ignitor for Murray’s vision arrives next month in the form of a potential game-changer: the PFL Challenger Series.
The PFL Challenger Series will debut on fuboTV. The eight events will stream on consecutive Friday nights starting Feb. 18, and run through April. It will also air on its linear network, Fubo Sports Network.
Each event will showcase “undiscovered” fighters who will compete for a PFL contract. Fans will vote on Twitter for fighters deserving of a deal, and celebrity judges will also help decide who gets signed by the league. Confirmed judges to appear include boxing legend Mike Tyson and former NFL stars Ray Lewis and Todd Gurley.
“It’s American Idol meets MMA,” Murray said. “A live sport competition with a little reality programming. And fans will have a voice. It’s going to be fun.”
It’s not just fun — it’s also about “dream fulfillment,” Murray says.
“Every night one fighter will get a contract, so therein lies the drama,” he said. “They are fighting for a big break.”
Fighters, both men and women, who get signed will either earn a development deal with the season-based league or score a contract for a PFL roster spot for the upcoming 2022 season; it all depends on how advanced they are.
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The newly signed fighters will then train with former MMA champion Ray Sefo, the PFL’s president of fighter operations, to take their skills to the next level. And that’s the ultimate goal of Challenger Series, Murray said, “to identify and develop future champions — stars.”
The PFL Challenger Series also kicks off a more expansive relationship with fuboTV, whose CEO David Gandler predicted that his streamer could reach 5 million subs in five years.
Murray said “at the forefront” of the fuboTV partnership is real-time betting, which operates through Fubo Sportsbook. “We believe in Fubo’s vision and are excited about the company’s momentum and growth,” he said.
What else to watch for the PFL in 2022
The PFL — which finished its second ESPN network-aired season on Oct. 27 — will soon announce its TV deal for the upcoming season, which will open in late-April.
Murray’s mission this year is a simple one: Keep growing the PFL’s fan base. And his strategy to do that includes “doubling-down” on more live events. He said the PFL is shooting for 24 live shows in 2022.
Murray also said the PFL is planning its first-ever pay-per-view event for the second-half of ‘22, after saying last year that “pay-per-view talent” already exists on the league roster.
Arguably, the PFL’s biggest PPV talent is undefeated women’s lightweight champion Kayla Harrison — a two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo — who’s one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in any league. Check out how Harrison dominates here.
A massive coup for the PFL’s women’s roster in 2021 was the signing of Claressa Shields, a 3-division boxing world champion who’s also won Olympic gold. It’ll be fascinating to watch how Shields progresses in season two of her MMA career.
(Quick sidebar: The PFL, since it launched four years ago, has been lauded for equal pay for men and women fighters, paying $1 million in prize money to the champion of each weight division, men’s or women’s.)
On the men’s side, pound-for-pound best Anthony Pettis recently announced he will return to the PFL this upcoming season. Pettis, a former UFC lightweight champ, made a big splash when he jumped over to PFL last year. Welterweight king Ray Cooper III will look to score his third one-million dollar paycheck in 2022.
But, before the regular season begins, the PFL will host its Challengers Series, looking for its next big star.