PFL will not be introducing new weight classes in 2024.
Last week, PFL acquired Bellator after months of negotiations, bringing together two of the biggest non-UFC MMA promotions in the world. After making the announcement, PFL founder Donn Davis revealed plans for a “mega-event” featuring PFL champions taking on Bellator champions, and on Friday, those PFL champions were determined as six fighters were crowned at the 2023 PFL Championships in Washington D.C.
One problem though: PFL doesn’t currently have champions for the bantamweight and middleweight divisions, two of Bellator’s best divisions. And Davis says the promotion isn’t planning to add those weight classes into the mix next year.
“There’s two big divisions, 185 and 135, where Bellator has probably the two best fighters in the world,” Davis said at the PFL Championships post-fight press conference (h/t FanSided). “Patchy Mix could beat ‘Sugar’ [Sean O’Malley]. Doesn’t have the hair, but he’s got better fighting. And I think most people think either that’s a good fight or Patchy’s a slight favorite. But it’s a damn good fight. Same with Johnny [Eblen].
“So those are two divisions which may be No. 1 in the world. We didn’t want to come out with those divisions this year because that wouldn’t serve those guys. We’re going to come out with those divisions probably in 2025. So we need a full year to build divisions strong enough that they would make sense in a league season.”
But just because PFL isn’t going to immediately add those weight classes to its 2023 season schedule doesn’t mean Eblen, Mix, and the rest of the fighters in those weight classes will be shelved next year. Instead, Davis suggests that while the promotion continues to build a roster capable of having bantamweight and middleweight seasons, the Bellator champions and fighters will be an integral part of the promotion’s upcoming “superfight” series, which is targeting eight marquee events per year.
“What makes sense this year? Put on fantastic fights in these eight major events that we’ve talked about,” Davis said. “Think of the eight events as huge events on their own. When you see UFC, we all see what are the eight or 10 best events they have of their 30. We want to make these events almost that big. Two championship belts on the line for all co-mains for those. Put them in the great cities of the world, at least four in Europe, a couple in the mid-East, a couple in the Far East, maybe one in Latin America. Have each of those be tentpole events and have those be worth of a Johnny, a Patchy, the people that aren’t in the season this year, against the best opponents that would make sense.”
While details of these tentpole events are still being ironed out, Davis did say that he believes the promotion will have a preliminary schedule for 2024 finalized in the next few weeks. He also noted that most of those events will be outside of the United States.
“Six of the eight events will be outside the U.S.,” Davis said. “Our focus will be on giving international fans more top-shelf product than they’ve been able to get before. Almost all of the league seasons of PFL is in the U.S. So we see this as a great compliment to serving global fans.”
And on the topic of global fans, Davis also revealed that he is still very open to co-promotion. This past year, two of Bellator’s most successful events were the highly-touted “Bellator v. RIZIN” fight cards, featuring champions from both promotions competing against each other. Davis said he’s already reached out to RIZIN to continue that series.
“I reached out to RIZIN two weeks ago and I let them know we’d be glad to talk to them, and that we had one open spot on 2024 that we hadn’t even booked the event yet, and if they’d like to talk to us about that, we’d be open to doing that,” Davis said.
“That was a huge, successful event [for Bellator] and we want to continue to do things different. What does that event look like? TBD. But that event itself was interesting. That event was huge. So we’ve reached out and let them know we’re glad to talk about that, even as soon as putting it in the third or fourth quarter of next year.”