When Peter Murray came over to become CEO of the Professional Fighters League in 2017, he was coming off a landmark run with American sportswear brand Under Armour. Murray, who served as Vice President for Global Brand and Sports Marketing, was instrumental in bringing in some of Under Armour’s biggest stars, namely Stephen Curry, Anthony Joshua, and Jordan Speith, just to name a few.
With such a resume under his belt, a lot was expected of Murray, who came on board at a time when many believed that the PFL – which had just undergone a rebrand – was losing some of it’s steam.
Three years and two successful seasons later however, the PFL is now the fastest-growing sports league in the world.
With Murray at the helm, the PFL’s success comes as no surprise, and here’s how he did it.
It certainly helps that Murray surrounded himself with some of the biggest names in various industries to form his all-star management team, which includes the likes of 16-time Emmy Winning Executive Producer George Greenberg, President and combat sports legend Ray Sefo, EVP for Business Affairs and General Counsel Jim Bramson, Chief Digital Officer Dan Ghosh-Roy. Earlier this year, Murray added another veteran to the team, with top executive Loren Mack coming in as Vice President.
“The PFL’s management team is composed of some of the best, most experienced, and most talented executives in the world, and it’s amazing to have them on my team,” said Murray. “Having these people by my side, working together to make the PFL the best that it can be, is the secret to the success that the league has seen in the last two, three years.”
After putting together one of the best executive teams assembled in sports today, Murray’s next focus was the product, and he made sure that it would stand out.
Instead of following what other promotions have done, Murray instead decided to go against the grain and take a proven formula like the league format and apply it to the fastest-rising sport in the world, MMA.
The result: a regular season-style tournament with the winner being named world champion and awarded a million-dollar grand prize.
“I think what makes us different from the rest is our style, our format. We did away with what other promotions make use of, and instead we applied something that’s been proven to work with nearly every other professional sport in the world: the league format,” Murray explained. “It’s fighter-friendly, because fighters are actually rewarded for their performances, and they earn the right to call themselves champion at the end. It’s fan-friendly because the viewers get to see their favorite fighters from beginning to end.”
A unique format is going to be successful as long as you have some of the best talent to work with, and that’s exactly what the PFL has.
As Murray was able to bring in stars to Under Armour, he’s managed to do the same by bringing in homegrown talent such as Lance Palmer, Kayla Harrison, Natan Schulte, and Ray Cooper III, while also being able to attract big names like Rory MacDonald.
“One of the most important aspects of this industry is being able to make stars, and I believe that we’ve done that with the likes of Kayla, and Lance. The next thing to do was to establish ourselves as a prime destination for free agents, and with the arrival of Rory MacDonald, I think the PFL has done that,” Murray said.
With global expansion in mind, the PFL recently signed a handful of top-tier talent from all over the globe including countries like Brazil, South Korea, Germany, and Norway.
With a world-class roster in place, the next move was to be able to showcase their talents on the biggest stage, and there’s no stage bigger than ESPN. Now, that stage gets even bigger, as the PFL is able to broadcast their content to 160 countries worldwide thanks to partnerships with the biggest outlets such as Eurosport in India, Telesport in Russia, as well as on digital platforms such as Wave.TV and on the PFL’s own mobile app.
“We want to reach as many people as we can to be able to show our product to as many fans as possible all over the world. With Eurosport and Telesport coming on board, we’ve broken into two of the world’s biggest markets in India and Russia. On the digital front, our deal with Wave.TV as well as the mobile app ensures that fans can have access to our content anytime, anywhere,” Murray stated.
Helping the PFL along the way are some of the biggest partners such as Geico, Acronis, Presidente, and Rich Energy.
In just two years, Murray’s leadership helped propel the PFL into a legitimate powerhouse in the MMA industry, alongside the UFC.
With the league gearing up for their 2021 season, which begins in April of next year, the PFL could further cement their status as one of the top players in the industry.