Professional Fighters League Co-Founder not worried about losing market share despite season ...

Donn Davis, Professional Fighters League (PFL) Co-Founder and Chairman & Revolution Growth Founding Partner joins Yahoo Finance to discuss the current state of professional sport during Covid-19.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: Call it the professional Fight Club because despite pandemic, the world does go on. And we invite into the stream right now Donn Davis, the Professional Fighters League co-founder, with some exciting news about mixed martial arts because you recently unveiled PFL Studios. Tell us more about what this is.

DONN DAVIS: Yes. PFL is not just live fights, but also year-round original content where fight fans of MMA can engage with the PFL every day, not just when we're having live fights. Obviously, during the pandemic, there's less live fights. So what we've done across all eight digital social channels is release live original content every single week, and fans can engage with our fighters and with our league, whether it's YouTube, whether it's Instagram, or whether it's the PFL OTT app.

DAN ROBERTS: Donn, Dan Roberts here. This is, obviously, you guys taking some steps to try and offer fans content during the pandemic, when it's been hard to hold fights. And I would just ask you to zoom out a little. How much has the pandemic sort of set back the progress of the whole MMA space?

Because before the pandemic happened, you know, not only had you guys just launched, but I remember we had talked about DAZN, the new streaming service, which really started off with getting MMA rights. And now, of course, DAZN has done a bunch of layoffs and killed some shows. I mean, there was really a lot of momentum for MMA in general as sort of a new sport category with a number of new leagues. How much longer is it going to take now for the sport to really get back to the point where it was?

DONN DAVIS: Yeah. If you look at MMA, in terms of the content producers and the leagues themselves, UFC and Professional Fighters League, what we've learned is MMA is the growth for the next decade. DAZN is a distributor, so they're a streaming platform. They don't own the league. They don't own the fighters. They don't own the content. So I can't speak to a struggling distributor.

But UFC and Professional Fighters League, never been better. We all miss sports, and the value of live sports on media has gone up. But the value of MMA has really gone up. The top-producing live event on TV around the world this year, MMA. And even the fight library of Professional Fighters League, our archive, record numbers. So I think what we saw is the ushering in of a new major sport of MMA this year. It's gone from niche to mass, and it just took a couple of years for that tipping point to happen.

JULIE HYMAN: Hey Donn, it's Julie here. Is this even though, you know, PFL is not fighting right now? I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, you guys aren't resuming until May of next year. At the same time, UFC's fighting. Are you are you concerned about losing any market share?

DONN DAVIS: It's interesting. There's-- we rescheduled our season for April 2021. So we're locked. We'll be on ESPN again live and in 160 countries around the world. And to the question about market share, there's 450 million MMA fans. That's the third largest fan base in the world, trailing only soccer and basketball. Yet UFC only provides some 40 events a year. There's 6,000 basketball games a year.

So this is an audience that wants more premium MMA. And there's also media distribution. ESPN, there's only one UFC. There's 15 to 20 other media outlets in the United States and one in every single country that wants MMA. That's why PFL is already viewed in 162 countries.

So MMA is the sport with more demand for media and more demand from the audience. And to that end, the PFL audience is already 25% of the UFC audience worldwide. Think of that. We've been around two years. They've been around 26 years. But this is not a winner-take-all market. There will be three or four or five $1 billion companies in the next 5 to 10 years in MMA.

MELODY HAHM: You say it's not a winner-take-all market, but I think you have, on the record, said that PFL is almost the Netflix to UFC's Blockbuster, and we know Netflix is the only survivor, relative to Blockbuster at this point, unless you count that one store in Oregon as a relic of sorts of the past. When you think about the digital native audience that you have really tried to galvanize and engage with, what are some key differences that you're seeing in their consumer behavior, in their interests, just in what they want to see and what they want to engage with?

DONN DAVIS: It's a great question. The Professional Fighters League was founded with two major differences to go after these 450 million MMA fans. The first is the sports season format. In the Professional Fighters League, it's just like the NBA or the NFL-- a regular season, a playoff, and a championship. So it's win and advance. It's not about a match-up, that Donn Davis decides who's number one or number two. We don't decide anything, just like Adam Silver didn't decide if LeBron James was in the Finals. You have to earn it.

So in the PFL, a fighter has to win four times to become the champion each year. So it's meritocracy and transparency. So we're trying to make MMA into a major sport like the other leagues, big difference number one. And that authenticity and that transparency, young audiences love that. They understand that.

The second thing is we wired the cage. It's the PFL SmartCage. We capture all data analytics from the fight and the fighters, and those are displayed on screen. What's the hardest punch in this round? What's the distance traveled? What's the heart rate?

And very interestingly, next April, the 2021 season, they're all real-time prop bets. You can gamble on the hardest punch. You can bet on what will be the highest heart rate. So the engagement of the data and analytics from the PFL smart cage and that authenticity and transparency of real sports season format, two nice distinctions between PFL and UFC.

ADAM SHAPIRO: And we appreciate your pointing those out to us. Donn Davis is Professional Fighters League co-founder. All the best to you. We'll be right back.

DONN DAVIS: Thank you.

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