According to a press release, – along with an announcement from PFL CEO Peter Murray and PFL star Kayla Harrison on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show – the Professional Fighters League (PFL) will be moving to ESPN and ESPN+ in a multi-year agreement.
Per the release, there will be ten PFL events in 2019. In 2017, there were three events, and 2018 saw eleven numbered events (PFL 1-11).
The events will air on ESPN2 and ESPN+ in the United States and will be aired on TSN in Canada.
The PFL events will again take place on Thursday nights. The “regular season” shows will be from May to August, and the playoffs will take place in October. The year-end finale show will air exclusively on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.
Beyond fight events themselves, ESPN platforms will also air pre- and post-event programming, along with several forms of exclusive content. Shows like “Road to the Playoffs,” “Road to the Championship” and the PFL “Best of Season” shows will be available on ESPN platforms.
The PFL-ESPN agreement begins this spring, as the “2018 PFL Season Review” and “2019 Roster Selection Show” shows begin the pair’s partnership.
The first PFL event will air on May 9, with the preliminary bouts on ESPN+ and the main card on ESPN2.
ESPN’s Executive Vice President of Programming and Scheduling, Burke Magnus, said of the deal, “We are pleased to add the PFL to our combat sports roster. This unique and innovative competition structure provides MMA fans with a great option to see some of the best fights and content in the sport.
“ESPN is the home of combat sports, and we look forward to delivering thrilling live PFL events and powerful storytelling to fans, across all platforms.”
Co-Founder and Chairman of the Professional Fighters League, Donn Davis, said, “The PFL was created to offer the 300 million global MMA fans the sport-season format that other major sports like the NFL and NBA have, which is the transparency and meritocracy of a regular season, playoffs and championship.
“Fans can now follow the stories, and business partners can engage in the journeys, of the PFL fighters throughout the season. This agreement to bring PFL to ESPN and ESPN+ further validates our unique and innovative product and will accelerate the PFL’s growth.”
PFL CEO Peter Murray added, “We are thrilled to bring the PFL to ESPN, the undisputed leader in sports. ESPN is a ground-breaking pioneer that has fundamentally changed the way we consume sports, and we at the PFL are reimagining MMA for fans and fighters.”
The promotion recently crowned six million-dollar-winning champions at their 2018 end-of-year-show. The promotion is a tournament-based meritocracy, in that the fighters advance towards the title – and prize money – purely by defeating their opponents, rather than with any promotional or subjective factors.
The PFL is the newly minted incarnation of the World Series of Fighting (WSOF). Last year, the promotion aired on NBC Sports.
Last season, Lance Palmer (17-3), Natan Schulte (15-3), Magomed Magomedkerimov (23-5), Louis Taylor (18-4), Sean O’Connell (21-10), and Philipe Lins (14-3) were crowned as champions in their respective weight classes.
Michael Fiedel is The Body Lock's deputy editor, a staff writer for FloCombat, and a Russell-Rice scholarship recipient at Vanderbilt University.