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Professional Fighters League Offers Equal Pay For Athletes: 'It Was No Question'

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Professional Fighters League Offers Equal Pay For Athletes: 'It Was No Question'

The Professional Fighters League is taking major steps toward fixing the lack of equal pay for female athletes, becoming the first professional sports league to guarantee equal payouts for female and male fighters.

The MMA league is set to host playoffs at MGM Resorts International (NYSE: MGM)'s Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas this week. Those that advance through the playoffs to the championship fights in New York will take home $1 million in both the men's and women's division in each weight class.

PFL Nearly Doubles Audience In 2019

The PFL said it presents MMA in a different way and is reimagining the sport with a regular season, playoff and championship format, where individual fighters compete and earn their way into the playoffs.

In its second year, the league has locked up a contract with ESPN and has cemented itself as the No. 2 player in the sport.

“Last year when we launched the company and validated the format, we were on NBC Sports, Internationally we were on Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ: FB)'s Watch platform. Now we are with ESPN, we have a long-term partnership and we are distributed to 150 countries outside the U.S.,” PFL CEO Peter Murray told Benzinga.

The PFL is one of the fastest growing sports leagues and aims to be the most innovative, he said.

“We are the first ever to present combat and mixed martial arts in a true sport format instead of a promotion based format. It’s great for the sport and for the fighters — they know who they are fighting, when they are fighting and what they are fighting for.”

The PFL said its audience has grown 46% year-over-year in 2019, and the league has many high-profile investors, including Kevin Hart, Mark Burnett, Randy Couture, Washington Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, and Washington Nationals owner Ted Lerner.

CEO: Equal Pay A No-Brainer

PFL investor Fred Schaufeld said the league is benefiting from a second-mover advantage.

"When you have one player dominating a market, which is what the UFC has done, sometimes there are things that they miss and there is a lot of talent that does not get the opportunity they deserve," said Schaufeld, the co-founder and managing director of SWaN.

The league has unveiled SmartCage technology, the first of its kind to measure metrics like kick speed, heart rate and calories burned during a fight.

CEO Murray said he is unconcerned about the competition, as MMA is undergoing its next evolution as a sport.

"We are a No. 2 property today. We are on ESPN alongside the UFC, but we have a complementary product and our thesis is there is more demand in the MMA combat space than the properties out there can provide. ESPN partnering with the UFC and the PFL illustrates [that] more than one can exist."

As for ensuring that female fighters receive equal pay, Murray said it was a no-brainer.

“Other sports properties are struggling with that decision, but for us, it was no question.”

The PFL playoffs kick off Oct. 11.

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Photo courtesy of Professional Fighters League. 

Posted-In: ESPN Fred SchaufeldNews Sports Top Stories Exclusives Interview General Best of Benzinga

 

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