World Series of Fighting has been rebranded as the Professional Fighters League and will begin operating under its new identity in 2018, according to a release.
The Professional Fighters League, which is co-founded by Washington D.C.-based businessmen Donn Davis, Russ Ramsey and Mark Leschly, purchased WSOF in January. Ramsey was a former chairman of the George Washington University board of trustees and also led a failed bid by Washington D.C. to land the 2024 Summer Olympics. The release boasts that the league is “backed by business titans in sports, media and technology.” According to a report from the Washington Post, Ted Leonsis, who owns the Washington Wizards, Mystics and Capitals, is one of the investors in the PFL, as are members of the Lerner family, who own the Washington Nationals. Other investors include Brandon Beck, found of the eSports company Riot Games and Los Angeles Dodgers Chief Financial Officer Tucker Karin.
The promotion’s new format will see fighters across seven as yet unspecified weight classes compete for a $10 million dollar prize pool. Fighters in the league will compete in scheduled bouts throughout a season, and those with the best records will advance to a “win-or-go-home” tournament. The tournament winners in each weight class will then receive a $1 million prize, while the remaining $3 million will be shared by the rest of the fighters in the organization. It is unclear how the remaining $3 million will be distributed, however.
“The Professional Fighters League brings a proven sports format that fans love and athletes respect to MMA for the first time,” Ramsey, the promotion’s executive chairman, said. “Featuring a regular season, post-season, and championship structure, the launch of the Professional Fighters League continues the evolution of MMA into a professional, mass-market, prime-time sport for a global audience.”
WSOF currently has 100 fighters under contract, including champions Bekbulat Magomedov (bantamweight), Andre Harrison (featherweight), Justin Gaethje (lightweight), Jon Fitch (welterweight) and Blagoy Ivanov (heavyweight). The release did not say how the PFL will handle the WSOF titlists once the new season begins next year. Recently, ex-WSOF champs David Branch and Marlon Moraes left the organization to sign with the UFC, and Gaethje is reportedly a free agent, as well.
Meanwhile, Ray Sefo, the WSOF president, and Carlos Silva, WSOF CEO, will remain with the new organization. Sefo is listed as the president of fighting operations, while Silva will serve as president of event production and business operations.
“Our experience and product – in the arena, on TV, and through digital – will connect MMA fans to our fighters and the sport they love in unique and innovative ways,” Silva said in a release. “Over the coming months we’ll be announcing more details on how we’re transforming the MMA experience for fighters and fans.”
Thus far, WSOF has held 37 events since its inception in 2012. Its last offering, WSOF 35, took place on March 18 at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, N.Y. WSOF had a television contract with NBC and had the majority of its events televised on NBC Sports Network, but that distribution deal runs out at the end of 2017. According to MMAFighting.com, WSOF is scheduled to hold four more events this year on June 30, Sept. 30, Oct. 30 and Nov. 4. None of those dates or events have been officially announced.