Donn Davis trashes UFC’s planned Saudi Arabia debut: ‘That is a poor fight-quality card’

Donn Davis and PFL are having a very good week.

On Tuesday, PFL announced it will begin 2024 with the much-anticipated PFL vs. Bellator supercard, which takes place on Feb. 24 in Riydah, Saudi Arabia, and features four champion vs. champion fights. The news came one day after reports surfaced that the UFC’s planned debut event in Saudi Arabia was being postponed from March 2 to June as a result of discontent from Saudi officials over card quality.

Speaking with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour on Wednesday, Davis said that’s not a accident.

“I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the UFC March 2 card was cancelled the day before our fight [announcement],” Davis said. “Those who know MMA said, ‘That is not a mega-event. That is not worthy of being hosted in Saudi Arabia. That is a poor fight-quality card the UFC put forth on March 2.’”

Of course, Davis isn’t suggesting the UFC is incapable of putting together a great card for Saudi Arabia, merely that they were not focused on it to the same extent that PFL was.

“Could UFC load up a card and have a mega-card? They could!” Davis continued. “Do they do it that often? They don’t. We’re going to do it every time we do it, and so our partners who are host partners, like Saudi Arabia — our partners who are PPV partners like DAZN or ESPN+, they know they can count on us for these two fights a year, best of the best of the best. That’s how we’re thinking about it in terms of the business model going forward.”

2024 figures to be a major year for PFL following the acquisition of Bellator, and the PFL vs. Bellator supercard is the promotion’s first step toward taking a “co-leader” role within the MMA space in 2024.

Though it’s still early, Davis was thrilled with how the announcement landed among MMA fans on Tuesday and believes it’s another step toward showing that PFL has something substantial to offer MMA fans.

“More than happy,” Davis said of the reaction. “When we sat down, we said, what’s every single fight we could give MMA fans? If you don’t see it on this card, you know why it’s not on this card? Injury or conflict. We held nothing back for fans. So we’re delighted with how it came together. …

“I think whatever perspective you came from — current fan, skeptical, or not yet a fan — you moved up two or three notches in terms of interest and certainly respect. And that’s what we’re trying to do. All we’re trying to tell fans is, MMA is big. There are 650 million fans out there. UFC puts on a great product. We put on a different and unique, great product. Check it out. It’s not either-or. This ain’t Coke or Pepsi. PFL is doing a whole different things. PFL is doing a whole different thing for fans and fighters, and I think yesterday, people started to get that vibe.”

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