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PFL acquires Bellator, says it's creating MMA 'powerhouse'

Cooper Neill / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The Professional Fighters League (PFL) has officially acquired Bellator in a landmark deal for mixed martial arts.

PFL chairman Donn Davis announced the news Monday after months of rumors that the two promotions would unite.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Paramount, the former parent company of Bellator, holds a minority stake in the company.

As a result of the sale, all fighters under contract with Bellator will immediately become available to "compete in PFL fight franchises," according to a press release.

However, the PFL will continue the Bellator brand. In 2024, the promotion will launch a reimagined product called the "Bellator International Champions Series." There will be eight events per year "in major cities across the globe," and each card will feature two title fights.

Half of Bellator's roster will compete under the PFL's season format, and the other half will compete in the new Champions Series, Davis said, according to TSN's Aaron Bronsteter.

Additionally, the PFL plans to hold a mega event in 2024 pitting PFL champions against Bellator champions.

"PFL is now a global powerhouse in MMA," Davis said in the release. "Our Bellator acquisition turbocharges PFL's mission to innovate the sport and become the industry co-leader."

The acquisition of Bellator, which most recently aired on Showtime, comes after Paramount's decision to leave the MMA and boxing business - and shutter Showtime Sports entirely - at the end of the year.

Bellator held the final event under its prior ownership, Bellator 301, last Friday in Chicago. The promotion was founded in 2008 and was long considered the second-biggest organization in MMA after the UFC.

The PFL has offered Bellator president Scott Coker and his team an opportunity to stay on with the company, Davis told ESPN's Brett Okamoto.

The PFL was founded in 2017 after a rebranding from the World Series of Fighting (WSOF). It is the only major MMA promotion to use a tournament format, with fighters competing in a regular season, playoffs, and championship.

The PFL has made several big business moves this year. It signed a deal with YouTube star turned boxer Jake Paul in January, with the plan of eventually promoting his MMA debut. The PFL also inked former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou to an exclusive MMA contract in May. Ngannou, who recently made his boxing debut against Tyson Fury, is expected to debut with the PFL in 2024.

With five fight "franchises" under the PFL umbrella - the traditional season format, pay-per-view Super Fight League, the Challenger Series, PFL International Leagues, and now Bellator - the promotion plans to hold 30 events per year.

The PFL has added world-class talent to its roster from Bellator, including Cris Cyborg, Vadim Nemkov, Usman Nurmagomedov, Patchy Mix, Patricio "Pitbull" Freire, and AJ McKee.

The news comes just days before the 2023 PFL championship event takes place Nov. 24 in Washington.

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