29 Jul [MMA] 
PFL targets international expansion, eyes Asia, Oceania

The PFL is currently on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the organization is targeting ambitious plans for its return.

The organization is just two years into its current iteration following the relaunch from its previous life as World Series of Fighting and was all set to run its third season of fights in 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic forced the postponement of its season.

However, the organization is assessing its options behind the scenes and is eyeing plans to expand its league-based MMA operation to key international markets upon return in 2021.

Speaking to MMA Junkie Radio, PFL vice president of corporate communications Loren Mack, who was announced this week as a new hire, laid out the opportunity the organization has identified in certain key markets, with the former ONE Championship exec’s experience highlighting Asia.

“It’s tough to say, because Asia and martial arts, and mixed martial arts, is so embedded. It’s such a big part of their culture,” he explained. “I think that one aspect the region is missing is a consistent promotion to put on the highest quality of fights out there, and I think PFL is going to answer that question. (The PFL) format is really going to resonate with an Asian audience.”

Mack, a former UFC executive who most recently helped build ONE Championship’s brand across Asia, says the door is open for the PFL to make its mark in a region that he thinks is crying out for more consistent MMA. He said the Philippines has the “biggest fight fans in the world” and stated that Indonesia is a “tremendous opportunity.” But it’s China that appears to be the PFL’s main target as it considers expanding its global footprint.

“China still hasn’t really been cracked,” Mack explained. “UFC just had some success there with their champion (Zhang Weili). I think PFL is going to be a major addition to China, and the opportunity is endless. It’s a region of the world with such a rich history of martial arts, but it hasn’t really had a promotion like the PFL and the concept of the PFL to really break through and transcend throughout the entire region, and that’s hopefully something I’m going to be working on consistently.”

Mack’s confidence in the PFL’s ability to make headway in Asia is due in large part to the promotion’s key differentiating factor – its league format. It ensures a “season” of fights for that market, culminating in a champion for each competing weight class. It’s a format that strikes a marked contrast to the approach of other promotions, who schedule individual shows in the region. It’s that difference that the PFL is hoping will bring them success.

“You need to have a mainstream sport – it can’t just be your hardcore fans that are tuning in,” he explained. “So I think that the league format is going to transcend China. I know we’re eyeing some incredible athletes over there, so that’s to be announced very soon. That’s going to be an exciting opportunity for the PFL.”

Mack said he thinks the PFL’s league-based format will resonate in a host of markets that have have a thirst for MMA. Dubbing the other leagues “Me Too” organizations for simply following the UFC’s approach to events, Mack says the PFL’s alternative take on MMA promotion will give the organization the chance to thrive.

“If you go into a country, and you do one event, and then you’re out of that country and you’re not back for six (or) seven months, and you don’t really have much distribution, it’s hard for you to continue to build a fan base, and that’s what ultimately separates the PFL from every player out there,” Mack stated.

“It’s not a ‘Me Too’ organization like a lot of the other organizations that have tried to crack a lot of these markets. It has a league format that’s done well in the United States, and I think it’s the language that’s going to transcend Australia, New Zealand, Asia, parts of Africa – and the reason I say that is because of the consistency. UFC comes in, they do one show in Australia, (then) they might not do another show there for the next couple of years. The opportunity for people to follow their favorite fighters in a league format is really what’s going to get more and more people involved in this sport, and I think that’s really the opportunity.”