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Saudi sovereign fund takes on fighting world with investment in MMA

The Professional Fighter League's founder and chairman, Donn Davis, told Al-Monitor that the Middle East offers an opportunity to grow mixed martial arts.
Saudi fighter Abdullah al-Qahtani (R) and US fighter David Zelner (L) compete during the Professional Fighters League 2023 playoffs featherweight fight at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Aug. 23, 2023.

A new partnership between the Saudi sovereign wealth fund and a US mixed martial arts league has the potential to grow the sport in the Middle East and boost Saudi soft power, but one obstacle will be the region’s lack of MMA talent.

SRJ Sports Investments, which is wholly owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), announced an agreement in late August with the US-based Professional Fighters League (PFL). Under the terms of the deal, SRJ Sports Investments will acquire a minority stake in the league. The exact financial figures have not been disclosed, but the PFL said the Saudi investment is at least $100 million.

The PFL is an MMA league that, unlike its peers, follows a season format similar to that of team sports. It is a competitor of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

In an interview with Al-Monitor, PFL founder and Chairman Donn Davis said the league approached the PIF in the summer of 2022 about the possibility of investing.

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