What is PFL Mena and where will the MMA 'Champions League' be held?

New regional league set to host inaugural event in April

Abdullah Al Qahtani, the first Saudi to sign with PFL, is likely to be one of the league's star names. Photo: PFL
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The Professional Fighters League (PFL) has announced the launch of PFL Mena, a new regional mixed martial arts league set to host its inaugural event in April. Here are the details.

What is it?

Founded in 2018, the PFL regards itself as the “fastest growing and most innovative sports league in the world”. It has five live fight franchises, including fellow mixed martial arts promotion Bellator, which it acquired in November.

The PFL is the only MMA organisation that operates a sports-season format, where fighters compete each year in a regular season, playoffs, and a concluding championship.

PFL Mena marks the company’s second international league, following on from PFL Europe, which launched last year. The promotion plans to have six regional leagues by 2026, with Africa, Australia, Latin America, and Asia to be added. The PFL says its overall global vision is to build a “Champions League of MMA”.

In August, the PFL signed an investment agreement with SRJ Sports Investments, an entity owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. As part of the partnership, SRJ acquired a minority equity ownership in the PFL, and became an investor in PFL Mena.

PFL Mena is designed to promote the region’s top fighters, while also providing a pathway to compete in the promotion globally. The league will host “showcase” fights to develop local and regional talent, such as Hattan Al Saif, the first female fighter from Saudi Arabia to sign a contract with a leading global MMA promotion.

On Saturday, the PFL hosted the inaugural “PFL Champions vs Bellator Champions” event in Riyadh, which also represented the first major MMA fight night to be staged in the kingdom.

When is it?

Firm dates are to be confirmed, but the opening event will take place in April. There will be four PFL Mena fights nights in 2024.

Where is it?

Although Saturday’s announcement did not provide details, The National understands all four events will take place in Saudi, with plans to broaden the scope next year to include other Mena countries.

Who will be competing?

The full roster will be confirmed next month, but the inaugural PFL Mena season will feature 32 fighters competing across four weight classes in that sports-season format: regular season, playoffs and championship.

Abdullah Al Qahtani, the first Saudi to sign with the PFL, is expected to be one of the league's prominent names. On Saturday, at “PFL Champions vs Bellator Champions”, Al Qahtani recorded a third-round TKO victory against India's Edukondala Rao to make it a third successive win since joining the PFL. It lifted the Riyadh-born athlete’s professional record to 8-1-0.

Who said what?

Peter Murray, CEO, PFL: “We are excited to announce the PFL’s second international league with our partners SRJ. Driven by the strategic importance of mixed martial arts in burgeoning markets, SRJ's investment underscores the immense potential of the sport in the region.

"PFL Mena expands the PFL brand and MMA footprint in the Middle East bringing events to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the wider region."

Danny Townsend, CEO, SRJ Sports Investment: “The launch of the PFL Mena League is another incredible milestone for the sport of MMA, and one we are delighted to play a role in. Saudi Arabia is quickly emerging as the international home of combat sports; bringing world-class talent here and to the wider Mena region remains at the core of SRJ’s investment mandate.

"With the launch of a new PFL Mena League, we're backing the development of the region's exceptional talent, helping provide new pathways to the top. We are confident that investments like these will continue inspiring even more young people to take up sport and help grow the MMA fanbase on a global scale.”

Jerome Mazet, general manager, PFL Mena: “We’re very excited to be launching PFL Mena and providing up-and-coming athletes from the Middle East a global platform for them to be able to showcase their skills and potentially compete for a life-changing opportunity at a PFL Championship and a million-dollar purse.

"Through PFL Mena, we hope to be able to not only find and develop the next Middle Eastern MMA star, but we also want to be able to put the spotlight on MMA in the region and give it the attention and the exposure that it deserves.”

Updated: February 27, 2024, 5:36 AM