A sports fund created by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has acquired a minority stake in the Professional Fighters League, marking another deal into a US sporting entity by a Middle Eastern investor.
(Bloomberg) — A sports fund created by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has acquired a minority stake in the Professional Fighters League, marking another deal into a US sporting entity by a Middle Eastern investor.
The kingdom will host PFL events, and support the development of the PFL’s Middle Eastern arm, which will launch next year, according to a statement Wednesday.
Bloomberg previously reported that mixed martial arts were a potential investment target for Saudi Arabia. In a recent interview, PFL chairman Donn Davis said he would be open to foreign investment.
SRJ Sports Investment Co. didn’t reveal the size of the PFL investment, but an earlier report by the Financial Times said it would be $100 million. A funding round last summer valued the league at about $500 million.
The Public Investment Fund launched SRJ earlier this month as part of its efforts to accelerate the sports industry in Saudi Arabia. The company is part of the kingdom’s strategy to invest billions in global sports teams, players and tournaments as it seeks to boost its international soft power, attract tourists and diversify its oil-dependent economy.
The PIF, as the wealth fund is known, acquired the British football team Newcastle United in 2021 and is set to become one of the most important investors in golf globally if its LIV golf tournament completes a merger with the US’s PGA Tour. The kingdom has recently spent hundreds of millions of dollars to get some of soccer’s biggest stars to join its domestic league. It’s also exploring a joint bid to host the 2030 FIFA World Cup.
Middle Eastern investors have been expanding into global sports, including in the US, which has predominantly relied on domestic investment.
Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund recently bought a 5% stake of the National Basketball Association’s Washington Wizards in a purchase that valued the team at $4.05 billion.
The PFL held its first event in 2018, making it a relatively new combat sports upstart. It runs a regular season and single elimination playoff format. Champions of each weight class earn $1 million.
PFL’s current list of investors include former Yankee Alex Rodriguez and Beats by Dre co-founder Jimmy Iovine. Ted Leonsis, who owns the Wizards, the Washington Mystics of the Women’s National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals is also an investor, as are actor Kevin Hart and rapper Wiz Khalifa.
“Today marks a new milestone for SRJ as we make our inaugural investment,” said SRJ Chairman Bander Bin Mogren. “SRJ is shaping a new era of sports in Saudi Arabia.”
Coming soon: Sign up for Bloomberg’s Business of Sports newsletter for the context you need on the collision of power, money and sports, from the latest deals to the newest stakeholders. Delivered weekly.
More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.