The cage door is locked for the season on the Professional Fighters League, the latest combat sports promotion flattened because of the coronavirus pandemic.
One Championship, Bellator and other regional promotions such as Cage Fury Fighting Championships all face uncertain start dates and have postponed or canceled dozens of fight nights combined. UFC, however, has pressed on and President Dana White has insisted cards will run starting in early May, even from vague locations, such as its proposed “Fight Island” (a private arena somewhere offshore).
The PFL has a unique MMA competition format that includes a regular season, a postseason and a championship event, meaning fighters could compete up to five times a year. The tightened schedule forced the PFL’s hand to move on; the league decided Monday to resume competition in spring 2021.
Two-time Olympic judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison is its current lightweight champion and the PFL late last year signed former Bellator welterweight champion Rory MacDonald.
CEO Peter Murray said the decision helped give the roster a more definitive idea of the state of the promotion. Last year, the promotion staged six regular-season events, three playoff events and a championship event on New Year’s Eve.
“We are in a position to maintain the majority of our roster, and for those that are going to continue with the PFL, we have put in place a program for a monthly cash stipend to support our fighters,” Murray said by phone. “We think it’s the right thing to do.”
The 2021 season will be distributed on ESPN platforms in the U.S. and to 160 countries by the league’s international media partners. The PFL said it will produce new programming across ESPN and PFL platforms for the rest of this year.
Murray said there was no danger of the league folding and that it might even pop up in the fall for one-off special events.
“We’re very nimble and we put together and very decisive and specific plan that gives us time to continue and evaluate what’s going on with the crisis,” he said. “Our focus has always been made-for-TV, will continue to be and we’ll further emphasize that.”
The PFL said it would continue to use former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson in some fashion after a successful partnership last season.