PFL Returning To Atlantic City Is Another Step Towards Normalcy
After a successful first year at Ocean Resort in 2019, the Professional Fighter's League is returning to Ovation Hall for the 2021 Regular Season. Unlike the 2019 Regular Season when the PFL traveled around to multiple sites, including Atlantic City, Ovation Hall will host the entire Regular Season for the MMA organization for six events starting on April 23rd.
Similar to what other sports have done over the last several months, the PFL is creating a "Bubble Environment" as part of their stay at Ocean Resort beginning with fighters and their teams arriving 17 days prior to their scheduled fights. Everyone arriving in Atlantic City will go through an initial quarantine period with additional measures to ensure full participation for the PFL Regular Season. The PFL Bubble Protocols includes daily COVID-19 tests for all fighters, mask requirements for everyone on site, and fighters will be kept separated in the leadup to their bouts.
PFL CEO Peter Murray talked about returning to Atlantic City in the organization's press release:
“PFL is excited to be back on ESPN to showcase our MMA 2.0 product – Our six regular season events will be staged at the world-class Ocean Casino Resort where we’ve held successful events in the past. The property has all of the necessary amenities to support our athletes in a bubble environment to ensure their safety as it relates to COVID-19.”
PFL MMA returning to Atlantic City is another step towards Normalization for South Jersey after the COVID-19 Pandemic had serious short and long term impacts on the region especially with the loss of seasonal revenue. So many of our local businesses depend on the volume of people coming down to the area May through September to make sure they are making a financially profit each year. Over the last several months, many of the businesses that have survived the Pandemic Shutdown period are just breaking even in order to cover the costs of running their business.
Even though the PFL says they will not have fans in attendance to start their Regular Season in April, there is a lot of money being spent to make this Bubble Environment happen at Ocean Resort. That is money that was not coming into Atlantic City last year, meaning more job security for some who work in the city along with potentially creating the need for people being hired who are currently unemployed or working just part time employment.
I know several people who work in Atlantic City at the different casino properties and when the pandemic hit, many of them were either out of work or their work hours greatly reduced. Now that New Jersey is slowly opening up for more and more business activities, these people are finally able to get stability back in their lives financially and personally.
Think about this: In order for the PFL to host their full Regular Season at Ocean Resort, they need to reserve about 80-120 rooms at the casino property for all the fighters, the fighters' coaches, the PFL staff, the media calling the events broadcast on ESPN TV properties, and any other necessary personnel for the six regular season fight cards. On top of that, if the PFL aims to maintain a true Bubble Environment, they are going to be eating all their food either from the Ocean Resort or select delivery from Atlantic City establishments. We know that Professional Sports leagues like the NBA and NHL spent Hundreds of Thousands of dollars for their Bubble Environments last summer while the UFC has spent tens of millions of dollars to host their Bubbles in Jacksonville, Abu Dhabi, and Las Vegas.
The Professional Fighters League claims to be "the Number two MMA company in the world" behind the undisputed top organization, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). As someone who has covered Professional MMA for over a decade including numerous events in Atlantic City, I can confirm they have filled the void of the number two organization for the sport of MMA.
There is no MMA organization that can rival the UFC in terms of audience reach and recognition at this point in the sport's history, but PFL has a deep roster of fighters and their Television Product is high quality. What elevates the PFL above rival MMA organizations like Bellator MMA and ONE Championship is those other organizations cannot give audiences the level of entertainment value that PFL offers. Bellator MMA use to be the number two organization several years ago before they changed their product model under new leadership where the game plan in recent years is to either get former UFC fighters or overpay others at price above market value compared to what other MMA organizations are willing to offer. There's over 10 fighters on the Bellator roster that are well known fighters by MMA fans but they can no longer compete with the level of talent that the UFC has to offer and they don't want to deal with the gauntlet schedule of competition offered by the PFL. Meanwhile, ONE Championship based in Japan is the top MMA Promotion in Asia but they have struggled to gain a lot of traction outside of the Asian TV Markets due to the TV Production and style of fights is less quality compared to PFL.
The PFL has numerous fighters who had success in their organization (formerly known as World Series of Fighting) who are now fighting in the UFC including former UFC Interim Lightweight Champion Justin Gaethje, Featherweight Contender Bryce Mitchell, and Lightweight prospect Matt Frevola. The 2021 PFL Regular Season will see the organizational debut of former UFC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis, former UFC Heavyweight Contender Justin Willis, and the MMA Debut of Women's Boxing Multiple Weight Class Champion Claressa Shields. Current defending PFL Champions such as Lance Palmer, Kayla Harrison, and Natan Schulte would be contenders in the UFC in their respective weight classes.
After the completion of the Regular Season, fighters who qualify for the postseason compete in a tournament for each weight class in which the PFL will crown the Champion of that weight class and the winner is awarded one million dollars. The 2021 PFL regular and postseason can be seen on ESPN 2, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+.
More details and updates to come as Townsquare Media is still waiting on further comment from the PFL on more specifics