MMA Pro League To Bring Team Sports To MMA
Following the UFC’s signing with ESPN for over $1 billion dollars, and a week before the Professional Fighters League debuts its first season, the MMA Pro League looks to bring team sports, usually seen in amateur wrestling and other major pro sports, to the world of MMA.
In an exclusive conversation with FIGHT SPORTS this week, MMA Pro League executives Hani Darwish, and longtime HBO Sports executive Mark Taffet explained that the process has been in the works for nearly six years. Darwish had been working on the concept slowly until Taffet came on board in 2016, looking to put more “meat” on to the bones.
Taffet admits that while both men “come from different professional backgrounds” their passion for MMA and the concept of the MMA Pro League is what’s driving them to their debut event in July at the Hard Rock Casino in Atlantic City.
While the idea of teams in MMA has been done before, Taffet claims that “team sports is a very different concept” now, and that it will provide more drama to the event as a whole.
“We want to have as much drama, and as much of point of impact as we can over the course of a match. Every fight counts toward the end result, there’s not one minute of action that you can afford to miss.”
Both Darwish and Taffet are excited that the MMA Pro League will be enacting a grassroots approach, especially when it comes to fighters. The MPL will be looking at building teams around specific states, starting with Team Pennsylvania coached by Daniel Gracie, of the legendary Gracie family, and Team New Jersey coached by former UFC fighter Dan Miller, whose teams will compete at the initial event on July 20th.
With five events in their first year, Taffet hopes to “establish the foundation of this league, city by city, market by market.”
“When we’re done we’re hoping to have a big national force. We feel it will help expand the marketplace and help with the growth of MMA.”
While there is no official television deal, Taffet, promises to have a “multi-device and multi-platform experience” before their first full season.
“If we do our job well, the base of fans for the sport will grow significantly,” Taffet told FIGHT SPORTS.
“And everyone in the sport from UFC to Bellator, to the arenas, to the fighters, and the fans themselves, will be the beneficiaries. We think this concept is the right idea at the right time, for a sport that we think will be one of the top tier sports in America for a long time.”
The MMA Pro League debuts on July 20th at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.