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PFL officially acquires Bellator, announces champs vs. champs series in 2024

Rob Wilkinson celebrates a win against Delan Monte after their mixed martial arts bout at the PFL Playoffs, Friday, August 5th, 2022, in New York. Wilkinson won via first round TKO. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Bellator needed a broadcast partner, and PFL had money to spend. The sale makes the combined entity the No. 2 promotion in MMA.

Donn Davis, chairman of the Saudi-backed PFL, announced Monday that his company has officially acquired Bellator MMA.

The terms have not been disclosed. However, MMA Fighting reported that PFL stock was included in the deal, so Paramount, Bellator's former rights owner, will have a minority ownership. A champion-versus-champion "mega event" between the two promotions is currently in the works.

The deal gained additional momentum in October when Showtime announced its sports division was shuttering at the end of 2023. That meant both boxing and MMA needed to find new broadcast homes as Paramount sought to offload.

Bellator, which launched in 2008 and was acquired by Viacom in 2011, knew its future hinged on finding another franchise with solidified TV rights. Now that the two entities have joined forces as one, it becomes the unquestioned No. 2 MMA organization behind only the UFC.

"The basis of all sports is the quality of competitors," Davis told ESPN. "With this acquisition, this combined roster is now equal to the UFC in terms of Top 25-ranked talent. The quality of the product, the depth of the product — this makes the PFL a global powerhouse overnight. That's just not possible in everyday sports. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

On LinkedIn, Davis provided additional details about the transaction.

At PFL, Bellator will work under a “reimagined” system called the Bellator International Champions Series. This will allow the franchise to operate as its own promotion. There will be eight events per year with each card featuring two title fights.

For Bellator fighters under contract, they'll be available to compete in the PFL — including in the season-long tournaments and the “superfight” series on pay-per-view launching in 2024.

Bellator president Scott Coker has not commented on the acquisition yet. Davis reportedly offered Coker "and his team at Bellator" positions within the new structure, according to ESPN.

Last weekend, Bellator hosted its final event, prior to its sale, in Chicago. The announcement of the acquisition was ahead of Friday's 2023 PFL Championship Finals in Washington, D.C.

The PFL is looking forward to a big 2024. It already airs on ESPN in the U.S., and in January, it revealed a new partnership with Jake Paul to broadcast his first MMA fight.

"The combined PFL and Bellator fighter rosters are second to none in MMA," PFL CEO Peter Murray said in the statement. "We can't wait to bring MMA fans what they have been asking for — best vs. best with the PFL Champions vs. Bellator Champions Mega-Event."