Payout Exclusive: PFL’s Ray Sefo and Carlos Silva

July 28, 2017

MMA Payout had the opportunity to speak with Professional Fighters League (“PFL”) President Ray Sefo and PFL CEO Carlos Silva right before weigh-ins on Friday afternoon ahead of its Saturday night event: PFL Everett.

The main card from the Xfinity Arena in Everett, Washington includes MMA veterans Jake Shields and Yushin Okami.  In addition, former UFC heavyweight Jared Rosholt will be in action against Nick Rossborough.  The main event features undefeated Featherweight Andre Harrison facing Steven Rodriguez.  It airs Saturday night with the main card on NBC Sports Network starting at 6pm PT which means that it will run up against UFC 214.  The prelims begin at 3pm PT and will be online on the PFL website and the FITE TV app.

The Professional Fighters League had its debut earlier this month in Daytona, Florida.  Everett, which held a World Series of Fighting Event last July, will be the second event under the new PFL structure.  The format has fighters divided into seven weight classes competing throughout a regular season schedule, with winners advancing to a win-or-go home playoff tournament.  Each tournament winner will be crowned PFL champion for that weight class and will collect $1 million.  An additional $3 million will be divided among other regular season and playoff competitors.

In speaking with Sefo, he noted that fighters are excited about the new structure.  “I’m a product of that format,” said Sefo, who referred to his K-1 background.  “It was very similar as to how K-1 was run.”  Sefo noted that the new structure addresses a main concern of fighters.  “The most complaints I get [from fighters] is that fighters don’t fight enough.”

Silva sees gradual growth for the PFL.  “Like any league, we are laying the foundation,” said Silva.  “We are big believers that this sort of transition from promotion to sport is what’s needed in MMA.”

“As you look over the next 3 seasons, you are going to see a lot of development.”  Silva added, “Fighters will know when they are going to fight and they will be able to plan out their season and will be treated like professionals.”

Sefo emphasized that the key word from Silva’s comment was that fighters are being treated as “professionals.” The athletes will know when they are fighting and will train and condition accordingly.

As for business, Silva stated that talks with companies to be sponsors are ongoing.  “There’s a lot of active conversations going on,” Silva indicated.  “You’ll see between now and January that a couple of these really interesting title sponsors that we’re talking to that will give the brand equity to the league which we’re excited about but we’re not ready to talk about it.”

Unfortunate for the PFL, but the Saturday event coincides with the big UFC 214 main event in Anaheim with Jon Jones finally facing Daniel Cormier.  This fight has overshadowed the PFL’s second event but Silva is taking the competition in stride.  “It’s a big night for MMA,” Silva stated about UFC 214 on the same night as PFL Everett.  “We’ve had other big nights up against Bellator and up against the UFC.  There are going to be collisions in professional sports whether it is NASCAR or baseball or the football season starting in a couple weeks.”

“What we tell everybody is that you should buy the pay-per-view, but before you do that you should tune in free on NBCSN watch some great [PFL] main card action.”  Silva advised MMA fans that after watching the PFL on NBCSN you can click on your PPV.

PFL 1 on NBCSN draws 291,000 viewers Friday night

July 5, 2017

The debut of the Pro Fighters League: Daytona drew 291,000 viewers on Friday night per Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.

The 143-minute telecast drew a 0.06 rating in t he A18-49 demo.

Under the World Series of Fighting name, the promotion last drew over 291,000 viewers on NBCSN at WSOF 10 when it garnered 365,000 viewers.  Its last event, WSOF 34, it drew 951,000 viewers when it appeared on NBC.

The main event for PFL featured Jon Fitch and Brian Foster with Fitch winning via submission.

The event took place at NASCAR’s Daytona International Speedway.  The race was cancelled due to rain and the fights were moved up as a result.  However, there were reports of issues with the mat and one has to wonder if the fights should have gone on due to the conditions.

Payout Perspective:

An inauspicious start to the new PFL.  There were only 4 fights on the card and that may have been good due to the weather.  Frankly, I thought the event took place on Saturday and not Friday night.  The lack of promotion and notice for the PFL is concerning as you would think that a debut would come with more fanfare.  NASCAR did promote the event but I wonder if there was enough buzz for the event.

Formerly WSOF, Professional Fighters League announces new structure for fighters

April 19, 2017

The World Series of Fighting is being repackaged as the Professional Fighters League.  The league will begin in January 2018 according to a press release sent out on Wednesday.

The inaugural season will run for 10 months and will feature seven different weight classes.  Similar to league play, fighters will compete in three regular season fights with the best records moving to a playoff and then a championship round.  There will be $10 million in prize money with $1 million going to each winner of the 7 divisions.  The remaining 3 divisions will go to regular season and playoff competitors.

The Washington Post have announced that a group led by several D.C.-area businessman are spearheading the re-launch effort.  Russ Ramsey, an investment banker and hedge fund manager along with venture capitalists Donn Davis and Mark Leschly are the co-founders of the Professional Fighters League.  Sports franchise owner Ted Leonsis is also an investor.  Leonsis owns the Washington Capitals, Mystics and Wizards.  Also, members of the Lerner family who own the Washington Nationals are investors.

There is no current television deal as the NBCSN TV deal expires at the end of 2017 although according to MMA Fighting, talks are underway with several media outlets.  MMA Fighting obtained an email to fighters from Ray Sefo stating the change.  It also noted that every fighter will have regular fights (no less than 3 per year), they will receive a monthly paycheck and have the opportunity to be champion.

Payout Perspective:

The announcement was a surprise for fighters as none knew of the details of the new venture.  Of course, there are still more questions to ask.  First, are the fighters now employers?  Second, with the mandate that every fighter have at least three fights, how many former WSOF fighters be included on its roster.  Third, will fighters receive insurance.  Of course, what happens if a fighter is injured and cannot fight the rest of the year.  Will they continue to receive a monthly paycheck.

Obviously, the infusion of cash from the investors seems to be the reason for the newfound promises.  Of course, the big need is for a media rights distributor that will pay for the content with the hope that it can find key sponsorships to carry it through the inaugural season.  We shall see what happens.

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