- DraftKings has been named as the first official sportsbook and daily fantasy sports partner of the Professional Fighters League MMA promotion.
- The Professional Fighters League (PFL) is arguably the second most prestigeous MMA promotion in the world behind the UFC.
- The PFL’s 2021 season will begin on April 23 with coverage on ESPN2, ESPN+ and ESPN Deportes.
It looks like DraftKings (NASDAQ: DKNG) is angling to become the ‘go to’ US sportsbook for fight sports. Within the past six weeks they’ve announced partnership deals with the UFC and as a ‘gaming partner’ of the WWE. They’ve now added another top tier MMA promotion to the fold announcing a partnership with the Professional Fighters League (PFL).
The PFL has developed considerable momentum since it debuted in 2018 and although the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted their 2020 schedule they’re still in good shape. The PFL utilizes a format similar to a traditional sports league with a ‘regular season and ‘playoffs’. Of particular note, they’ve raised the bar on MMA statistical performance metrics with the PFL SmartCage delivering viewers on-screen fight analytics and real-time prop bets. All PFL 2021 Season events will be broadcast in primetime on ESPN2/ESPN+ in the United States. They also have broadcast deals in 160 international markets.
The metrics that the PFL quantifies are unique and the plan is to leverage them for some innovative prop bets as the press release announcing the partnership details:
The multi-faceted partnership will give MMA, daily fantasy and sports betting fans a truly unique viewing and gaming experience utilizing PFL’s proprietary SmartCage technology. PFL is the first in combat sports to capture and distribute real-time fighter data and analytics, which are integrated into each broadcast and across the league’s digital and social channels and include metrics like punch speed, fighter tracking, kick speed, heart rate and caloric burn. This data will eventually allow for innovative and distinctive prop bets. For example, fans will be able to place a wager on whether or not a fighter will land a strike exceeding 25 MPH.
Peter Murray, CEO of the PFL, clearly understands the opportunity that sports betting presents to grow the sport of MMA and his promotion:
“We’re thrilled to partner with DraftKings as we look to advance the sport by delivering a premium and unique betting and gaming experience to the millions of passionate MMA fans in the US. The PFL’s win and advance season format combined with our proprietary SmartCage fight data and analytics offer unmatched prop bets and gaming opportunities. MMA’s league is back with our season debut this Friday, April 23 in primetime on ESPN2, ESPN+ and ESPN Deportes.”
Much of the deal is similar to the arrangement between DraftKings and the UFC–odds integrated into every broadcast, DraftKings branding and logos on the cage and mat as well as promotion across social media channels. Overall, it’s another salvo in the ongoing mainstreaming of sports betting in the United States.
Ezra Kucharz, Chief Business Officer of DraftKings, is pleased to put together another high profile promotional deal for his company:
“We are excited to further our relationship with the Professional Fighters League as their first official betting and daily fantasy partner. MMA is mainstream. The fan is young, loyal, passionate, and engaged, and PFL delivers an innovative product. We look forward to bringing a premium betting and fantasy experience to this growing audience in what is a monumental partnership for combat sports and the gaming industry.”
Kucharz’s mention that ‘MMA of mainstream’ is of particular note. Within the past decade, MMA has gone from a freak show for bloodthirsty degenerates to a legitimate sport worth billions. In many ways, sports betting is on the same path to mainstream legitimacy in the United States–though without the ‘bloodthirsty degenerates’.
At the time of publication, James Murphy has a long position in DKNG.