Million-dollar MMA: Professional Fighters League says Russia is a 'priority market' as organization plans 2021 return (VIDEO)
The Professional Fighters League (PFL) is targeting international expansion after agreeing a TV deal with Telesport in Russia, and say they're ready to make their mark on the international stage with their league-based MMA format.
The promotion, which runs a season-based league, with end-of-season playoffs crowning divisional champions, who each win $1 million, has been on hiatus in 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. But the organization has taken the time away from the cage to plan their expansion as they look to make an impact on the world stage in 2021.
So far, the PFL has focused its efforts in its home nation of the United States. But, speaking exclusively to RT Sport, PFL's CEO Peter Murray explained that the organization has targeted Russia as a key area for their international success.
"Russia is a priority market for the Professional Fighters League," Murray stated.
"The love and passion for the sport is next level, and it's important that we provide fans in Russia with access to our league and fighters. Russia has consistently produced elite MMA talent, many of whom have made a name for themselves in the United States with the PFL.
"We’re excited to partner with Telesport and provide this fan base of MMA enthusiasts with premium, year-round MMA content, and the opportunity to support homegrown talent on their journey."Also on rt.com WATCH: Russia’s Ali Isaev smashes his way to $1 MILLION with victory at PFL Championship in New York
The PFL's foray into Russia may not end with a TV deal, however, with the organization also eyeing the possibility of future events overseas.
"We will hold international events, that’s absolutely part of the plan," revealed Murray.
"Our International Qualifier Series was created to provide fighters with a chance to earn their way into the PFL, and that will continue. We will hold events tied to our season format outside of the US, and Russia is a market we are exploring."
Murray also revealed that the PFL is exploring the possibility of holding their season finale championship events, which took place at Madison Square Garden's Hulu Theater in 2018 and 2019, overseas.
"Our championship event is a spectacle, with six, million-dollar title fights in one night," he said.
"Holding the championship internationally is something we are discussing."
Perhaps most importantly, the PFL said that it wants to continue developing Russian fighters into stars, with the organization already crowning two one-million-dollar champions from the region in previous seasons.
"PFL provides a platform that is built to create stars," said Murray.
"Magomed Magomedkerimov is on an 11-fight win streak. He captured the 2018 welterweight title, and was on his way to repeating before going down with an injury. He's making his return to the cage, and he's a star. Another title will catapult him into the conversation as one of the best welterweights in the sport.
"On the other hand, you have heavyweight Ali Isaev. He went undefeated last season improving his career record to 9-0. He won the heavyweight title, and really is just starting to make a name for himself. He has a tremendous opportunity to showcase his skills."
The organization has also made some significant additions to its roster, with former UFC welterweight title challenger Rory MacDonald heading a group that includes Mohamed Usman, brother of UFC welterweight champion Kamaru, plus former Brave CF featherweight champion Bubba Jenkins, American heavyweight prospect Jordan Young and ex-UFC lightweight Olivier Aubin-Mercier.
They will join a roster that already features two-time Olympic judo champion and PFL women's lightweight champ Kayla Harrison, two-time PFL champions Lance Palmer and Natan Schulte, as well as Russian stars Magomedkerimov, Isaev and Movlid Khaybulayev, who scored the fastest KO in PFL history with his stunning flying knee finish last year.
It has given Murray and his team cause for optimism as they use the remainder of 2020 to gameplan their return to our screens in 2021.
"Next season will be our biggest and best yet," he stated.
"We are creating stars on a level not seen before in combat sports and also attracting top talent who are looking to compete for a million dollars."Also on rt.com Million-dollar woman: Kayla Harrison - dubbed 'the female Khabib' - wins PFL Championship & mega payday (VIDEO)