Are you wondering who owns PFL MMA?
In this article, we’ll look at who owns PFL MMA, PFL’s funding rounds, how much PFL is worth in 2023, and who the PFL founder is.
Who Owns PFL MMA?
PFL MMA is owned by the founder, chairman, and co-owner, Donn Davis, co-founder Mark Leschly, financier Russ Ramsey, and several large investment firms such as MMAX Investment Partners. There are roughly 30 investors/part owners of the PFL.
- Donn Davis – A seasoned entrepreneur and investor, co-founded Revolution LLC with Steve Case and is the guiding force behind PFL’s strategic direction and business operations.
- Mark Leschly – A prominent figure in venture capital and private equity, brings a wealth of experience from his work at Rho Capital Partners and Universal Tennis, contributing to PFL’s growth and global expansion strategies.
- Russ Ramsey – A financier with deep roots in investment banking and asset management, leverages his financial acumen and experience as the chairman of Ramsey Asset Management to provide strategic financial guidance for PFL.
Other owners of PFL MMA include those involved in acquiring World Series of Fighting (WSOF) assets in 2017 and restructuring the promotion as Professional Fighters League (PFL).
- MMAX Investment Partners – a holding company created by Russ Ramsey.
- Ted Leonsis – Sports and entertainment mogul Ted Leonsis contributes industry expertise to PFL’s market strategies.
- Mark Lerner – As a sports enthusiast and real estate developer, Mark Lerner provides PFL with valuable operational insights.
- Glenn Youngkin – Prior to his political career, Glenn Youngkin’s business acumen marked him as a supporter of innovative ventures like PFL.
Since then, more investors (individuals and companies) have become part-owners of PFL MMA:
Individuals Investors and part-owners:
- Alex Rodriguez – Former MLB star Alex Rodriguez brings sports industry insight to PFL.
- Brandon Beck – Riot Games co-founder Brandon Beck offers expertise in competitive entertainment.
- David Blitzer – Private equity executive David Blitzer contributes financial strategy experience.
- Debra Cafaro – Ventas CEO Debra Cafaro provides business leadership acumen.
- Francis Ngannou – Former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou brings high-level MMA experience to the PFL, enhancing its credibility.
- Jake Paul – Internet personality and boxer Jake Paul adds a unique blend of entertainment, combat sports perspective, and lots of viewers.
- Jimmy Iovine – Music industry titan Jimmy Iovine brings a wealth of media and marketing knowledge.
- Kevin Hart – Comedian and actor Kevin Hart infuses star power and broadens PFL’s mainstream appeal.
- Mark Burnett – TV producer Mark Burnett offers valuable content creation and promotion insights.
- Marshawn Lynch – Former NFL player Marshawn Lynch contributes sports and branding experience.
- Nakisa Bidarian – Finance expert Nakisa Bidarian brings extensive strategic planning and operational finance experience.
- Ray Lewis – NFL legend Ray Lewis offers insights from a high-level athlete’s perspective.
- Ted Segal – Real estate entrepreneur and Houston Dynamo owner Ted Segal provides expertise in sports property management and development.
- Tony Robbins – Motivational speaker Tony Robbins contributes expertise in branding and personal development.
- Wiz Khalifa – Rapper Wiz Khalifa adds celebrity presence and creative flair to PFL’s image.
Companies / Investment Firms:
- Waverly Capital – A venture capital firm known for its strategic investments in media and technology.
- Luxor Capital Group – A multi-strategy investment firm focusing on public and private companies across global markets.
- Elysian Park Ventures – A private investment firm with a portfolio spanning sports, technology, and entertainment sectors.
- Washington Harbor – An investment group specializing in strategic asset growth and innovative financial solutions.
- Knighthead – A credit investment management firm that focuses on distressed and underperforming credit.
- Ares Capital – A leading global alternative investment manager operating in credit, private equity, and real estate.
- Swan Ventures – An investment firm with interests in various sectors, known for its diverse portfolio of innovative companies.
- Legends Hospitality – A holistic solution provider for brands in sports, music, and entertainment, specializing in delivering services from marketing to hospitality.
- SRJ Sports Investments – A recent Saudi Arabian firm focused on investments in sports, particularly in organizations with high growth potential like PFL.
To get a closer look at when the new owners of PFL came aboard, let’s look at the PFL funding rounds in date order.
Note: The ownership percentages among the investors are undisclosed and therefore unknown.
PFL MMA Funding Rounds (PFL Owners)
Professional Fighters League (PFL) has had 6 funding rounds since its founding in 2018.
Its latest funding round was on Aug 30, 2023, with a total of $303M raised so far.
Here’s a breakdown of PFL’s funding rounds:
Series B (August 2018)
$28 million investment from sports, entertainment, and business giants, including Kevin Hart, Mark Burnett, Tony Robbins, and Ted Leonsis.
Additional investors in this PFL Series B round include:
- Elysian Park Ventures
- Swan Ventures
- Debra Cafaro
- Mark Leschly
- Brandon Beck
Series C (April 2019)
$30 million from Elysian Park Ventures, Swan Ventures, Mark Burnett, Ted Segal, Debra Cafaro, Brandon Beck, Mark Leschly, and Donn Davis (founder).
Series C (January 2020)
$50 million funding round led by Swan & Legend Venture Group, with Ted Leonsis, David Blitzer, Mark Lerner, and Kevin Hart also contributing.
This brought total funding to $100 million.
Series D (February 2021)
$65 million from Ares Capital, Elysian Park Ventures, and Knighthead Capital. This brought total funding to $175 million.
Strategic Partnership (August 2021)
PFL announced a long-term partnership with Legends Hospitality, which purchased a disclosed minority ownership stake.
Legends Hospitality bolsters PFL’s expansion, taking the helm of key business areas including sponsorship, ticketing, hospitality, and training facility development.
Furthermore, the partnership grants Legends exclusive rights in managing PFL’s e-commerce, a move marking the depth of their collaboration.
Series E (May 2022)
$30 million led by Waverley Capital and Alex Rodriguez. This brought total funding to $200 million.
The funding was used for global expansion and for launching its new PPV Super Fight Division with Jake Paul.
Private Equity Round (August 30, 2023)
PFL sold a minority stake to SRJ Sports Investments for $100 million.
The $100 million will be used to fund the PFL’s global expansion in the USA, Middle East, Europe, and North Africa, and to recruit the best MMA fighters (such as Francis Ngannou).
Also part of the deal, Saudi Arabia will host PFL pay-per-view events (undisclosed amount) starting in 2024.
Note: Francis Ngannou became part-owner of the PFL when he signed a multi-fight deal with the promotion in May 2023. More specifically, he became chairman and a minority equity owner in PFL Africa.
Does Jake Paul Own PFL?
In a landmark deal signed on January 5, 2023, Jake Paul and his business partner Nakisa Bidarian became part owners of the PFL.
As with every investor and part-owner of the PFL, their ownership percentage is undisclosed.
The deal sees Jake Paul and the PFL co-founding a new pay-per-view division called PFL PPV Super Fight.
The division plans to host two Super Fight events in late 2023 and sees fighters earning 50% of revenue from each event, more than in any MMA promotion.
Also part of the deal, Jake Paul was signed as the first fighter in the new Super Fight division.
The exact details of the deal are unknown, but it’s believed to be a multi-year contract.
Jake Paul’s part ownership of the PFL isn’t just a business venture; it’s a statement.
He’s been a vocal critic of the UFC regarding fighter pay, often highlighting the disparity between the athletes’ earnings and the revenue they generate for the organization.
By ensuring a 50% revenue share for fighters in the PFL’s new division, Paul is directly challenging the industry norms and positioning the PFL as a more equitable alternative to fighters.
How Much Is PFL Worth?
From 2021 to 2022, the PFL’s estimated worth saw a significant jump — from $400 million to a range of $500 million to $1 billion.
This leap was partly due to a $30m Series E funding round in May 2022, which, as CNBC reported, valued the PFL at $500 million.
Fast forward to August 2023, SRJ Sports Investments injected $100 million into the PFL.
This hefty investment suggests the PFL’s worth has climbed well over the $500 million mark in 2023.
However, the valuation at which SRJ invested is unknown, as is how much of the PFL they secured with their $100 million.
So, while it’s clear the PFL’s value is on the rise, the company’s exact worth is open to interpretation.
This ambiguity is common with private companies like PFL, which don’t disclose financial details as openly as publicly traded companies do.
For the PFL, this means we can speculate based on known investments, but the full financial picture has pieces only insiders can see, leaving us to connect the dots with available information.
But what drives PFL’s valuation upward?
Several factors contribute to PFL’s growing valuation:
- Investor Confidence – The consistent injection of funds, including the latest $100m from SRJ Sports Investments, signals a strong belief in PFL’s future growth and profitability.
- Innovative Format – PFL’s unique season format with playoffs and a championship set it apart from other MMA organizations.
- Star Power – Signing high-profile fighters like Francis Ngannou and tying deals with popular stars like Jake Paul enhances PFL’s marketability, drawing more eyes to the events and potentially increasing revenue.
- Global Reach – PFL’s efforts to expand its audience globally, including hosting events in Europe (England, France, Germany) and securing international broadcasting deals (such as with China Sports Media), increase its visibility and open up new revenue possibilities.
- Technological Integration – PFL’s use of innovative technology for fighter performance analytics and fan engagement positions it as a forward-thinking organization, adding a unique aspect to its brand value.
- Diversification – PFL’s exploration of other entertainment avenues and potential expansion into areas like reality TV and content production indicates a strategy to create multiple revenue streams.
Who is PFL Founder and Owner Donn Davis?
PFL founder Donn Davis is a seasoned entrepreneur and venture capitalist with a rich history in sports, media, and technology.
He’s not just the founder of the Professional Fighters League (PFL); his career spans various high-profile positions and successful ventures, reflecting a blend of business acumen and a passion for competitive industries.
Davis’s educational journey began at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he graduated in 1985.
He then advanced to the University of Michigan Law School, earning his law degree in 1988.
His career took off in the legal department of the Chicago-based law firm Sidley Austin.
However, his affinity for sports quickly became apparent when, at the age of 29, he became the youngest team attorney in Major League Baseball as the chief counsel for the Chicago Cubs.
Then, before spearheading PFL, Davis made his mark in the tech industry as the President of the venture capital firm Revolution LLC, which he co-founded with AOL co-founder Steve Case.
He also played a pivotal role in nurturing startups and was instrumental in Revolution’s investment in big names like DraftKings, a sports betting operator, and Sweetgreen, a fast-casual salad chain.
Vision for PFL
Davis’s vision for PFL was to disrupt the world of mixed martial arts by introducing the first-ever MMA league to operate with a regular season, playoffs, and championship, akin to major league sports.
This unique format was designed to democratize the sport, ensuring fighters were rewarded based on performance, and fans could engage with MMA through a familiar and exciting structure.
Achievements and Contributions
Under Davis’s stewardship, PFL has evolved into a global sports entity, securing substantial investments totaling $303m by October 2023, just 5 years after its founding in 2018.
His innovative approach has attracted a roster of elite fighters and led to groundbreaking partnerships, such as the integration of SmartCage technology for real-time fighter performance analytics.
The Bottom Line
So, ‘Who owns PFL MMA’?
PFL MMA is a private company owned by around 30 different shareholders.
The most notable of these owners/shareholders are Donn Davis (founder), Mark Leschly (co-founder), Mark Leschly (financier), Alex Rodriguez, Tony Robbins, Francis Ngannou, Jake Paul, and Wiz Khalifa.
The most notable investment firms to be part-owners of PFL MMA are MMAX Investment Partners, Ares Capital, Elysian Park Ventures, Luxor Capital Group, and Waverly Capital.
Donn Davis is seen as the owner or major shareholder of PFL MMA because he’s also the founder and chairman. However, his stake is undisclosed.
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