The New York Times is reporting that Jake Paul has signed a contract to fight for Professional Fighters League (PFL).
At the start of 2023, Jake Paul promised he’d move from talk to action when it came to fixing mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter pay. His first concrete step toward doing that? Crossing over into MMA, where he’ll undoubtedly pay himself a hefty purse to fight in a cage later this year.
According to the report, Paul signed a multi-year deal with PFL to compete in the promotion’s new “Super Fight” division, which will anchor the PFL’s pay-per-view (PPV) events. While no dates have been revealed, PFL plans to stage two PPV events this year and it’s expected Paul will compete on one, while boxing once sometime in the year as well.
As part of the deal, Jake Paul now owns equity in PFL, and his partner, Nakisa Bidarian, at Most Valuable Promotions will help PFL with “logistics” for PPV events. Bidarian is the former Chief Financial Officer of UFC from 2011 to 2016. Paul will also become PFL’s “Head of Fighter Advocacy.”
In this clip, Jake Paul says he has offered Nate Diaz a two fight deal: one fight in boxing and then 6 months later in MMA under the PFL banner pic.twitter.com/vqzTvZ1ben— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) January 5, 2023
In what is the most interesting wrinkle of this deal, fighters in the “Super Fight” division will earn, “at least 50 percent of the PPV revenue” from PFL events. Sure, that may not have amounted to big bucks when PFL held its first PPV event in Nov. 2022 headlined by Kayla Harrison and the 2022 tournament finals.
But, with Paul attached to the event, UFC may no longer be the highest-paying MMA game in the business.
For years, UFC has been criticized for locking fighter pay across the promotion to roughly 18 percent of revenue. The promotion is currently embroiled in a slow-moving class action lawsuit launched by former fighters arguing that the promotion is a monopoly and monopsony that has illegally used its market share to depress fighter pay. And while it will probably be a few more years at least before that case is worked out, this PFL deal gives a glimmer of hope that fighters like Nate Diaz, Francis Ngannou, Paulo Costa and others can leave UFC and have a platform where they can fight and be paid fairly.
Indeed, we were a bit dubious when Paul claimed he was going to change the game as far as MMA fighter pay went, but with some slick maneuvering and the right match ups, PFL could use his name to build its brand into a legitimate UFC competitor. PFL debuted in 2018 and hoped to lure away big name MMA fighters from UFC with its $1 million tournament setup. The exodus never happened, partially because of the extremely restrictive and long-lasting nature of UFC contracts. But, there’s a growing handful of fighters freeing themselves from those and becoming free agents.
We imagine 50 percent of PPV profits will sound pretty appealing to them once Paul proves a non-UFC PPV can sell a couple 100,000 units.