Here's what you need to know about the PFL Saudi Arabia deal

Saudi Arabia has entered the mixed martial arts industry as the country has purchased a minority stake in the PFL.
2023 PFL 9: Playoffs
2023 PFL 9: Playoffs / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

Major MMA news broke Wednesday morning as Saudi Arabia moved to invest in the sport, purchasing a minority ownership stake in the PFL. Anton Tabuena of Bloody Elbow reported on the news and PFL confirmed the news via an official press release.

Here's all the important tidbits we've learned about the deal.

The SRJ Sports Investment, under Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), purchased a minority stake in the company. This ownership also includes the PFL MENA league which is scheduled to launch in 2024. The Financial Times reported that the deal is worth $100 million.

Susan Lingeswaran of Sportscal reported that the funds will be used to lure more stars to the promotion and bankroll more PPV events in the future.

"PFL's mission is to become the global co-leader in MMA with our fighter-first mission and disruptive sport-season format," said PFL Founder and Chariman, Donn Davis via the press release. "This investment by SRJ continues the monumental growth that PFL has experienced throughout the world, and there is no better partner in global sports than SRJ."

The Saudi Arabian investment firm continues to purchase stakes in multiple entities across sports and entertainment, including video games and golf, while attracting major sports events such as boxing into the country. Recently, the LIV golf circuit merged with the PGA Tour, sparking widespread condemnation for those who signed off on the deal. This practice is known as “sportswashing,” when a country attempts to erase its previous or current controversies through the use of major sports events and figures.

Saudi Arabia continues to use sportswashing to improve its image

The next phase of Francis Ngannou’s career is linked to Saudi Arabia as the country will host his boxing debut against Tyson Fury later this year. The WWE is also in the midst of a 10-year partnership with Saudi Arabia which started in 2019 and sees the promotion get a reported $50 million per event held in that country.

This is a controversial move in sports as Saudi Arabia is consistently ranked as one of the worst countries when it comes to human rights atrocities. In 2022 Human Rights Watch listed the country among the top 10 most prominent violators in the world.

Along with Ngannou, the PFL boasts big names such as Kayla Harrison and Jake Paul on the roster.

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