Paramount Sells Bellator MMA Promotion to Saudi-Backed PFL

Paramount has cut a deal to sell off its Bellator mixed martial arts promotion.

The company is selling a majority stake in Bellator to the Professional Fighters League (PFL), an upstart MMA promotion that was created to take on the UFC, which is the dominant player in the space.

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Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but previous reports had pegged the value of Bellator at around $500 million. Paramount will retain a minority stake in the combined company.

Donn Davis, the founder of PFL, announced the acquisition Monday morning, writing that its fighter roster is now equal to that of the UFC, and that it will relaunch the Bellator brand next year.

PFL received a substantial investment from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund earlier this year, and also counts Kevin Hart, Mark Burnett and Wiz Khalifa as minority owners.

Paramount predecessor Viacom acquired a controlling stake in Bellator back in 2011 at a $50 million price point. The company at the time helped launch the UFC via its reality series The Ultimate Fighter, an early predecessor to shows like Drive to Survive. After Viacom’s Bellator deal, UFC decamped to Fox Sports, and more recently inked a deal with ESPN. It is now owned by TKO Group Holdings, which in turn is controlled by Endeavor.

Endeavor recently announced a new UFC event in Saudi Arabia, with CEO Ari Emanuel framing it as “a clear indication that Saudi Arabia has every intention of growing its relationship with the UFC despite assumptions made about their recent investment in the Professional Fighters League.”

The sale of Bellator also comes as Paramount has sought to exit the combat sport business. Last month it announced that it would shut down Showtime Sports and consolidate all sports programming within CBS Sports. As part of that change, it announced that it would end its run of televising live boxing matches.

Citi and LionTree served as financial advisors to PFL for the deal.

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