Alex Rodriguez invests in mixed martial arts company PFL at $500 million valuation

Alex Rodriguez at eMerge Americas conference in Miami on June 13, 2017.

David A. Grogan | CNBC

Alex Rodriguez is betting on the growth of mixed martial arts.

The former MLB star is now a partial owner of the Professional Fighters League after he contributed to a $30 million funding round, the company said Thursday. Rodriguez joined media investment firm Waverley Capital in the raise and will have a seat on PFL’s board of directors.

Terms of the investment were not disclosed.

This marks the second recent pro sports investment for Rodriguez. He became a co-owner of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves in April 2021, joining former Walmart e-commerce executive Marc Lore to buy the franchise for a reported $1.5 billion. Through his A-Rod Corp. firm, he invests in UFC-branded gyms.

Rodriguez, 46, made more than $450 million throughout his 22-season MLB career, according to Spotrac, a website that tracks sports contracts. He retired in 2016.

PFL is now valued at $500 million, according to a person with knowledge of the deal. That’s up from a reported $400 million in 2021. The person declined to be named because PFL’s valuation isn’t public.

The company will use the funds from the Rodriguez-Waverley deal to expand globally and target free agent fighters from Endeavor-owned UFC, PFL founder and Chairman Donn Davis said in an interview with CNBC. PFL wants to build a roster to leverage its pay-per-view “Super Fight” event that’s scheduled to debut in 2023.

“They now have a great option – UFC or PFL,” Davis said. “We’re open for business in the pay-per-view division.”

PFL fighter Kayla Harrison won the 2019 PFL Women’s Lightweight World Champion

Courtesy: PFL

Davis called Rodriguez’s interest in PFL a “mutual attraction.”

“Alex is building a business career in sports that he wants to equal his baseball career,” he said. Davis called Rodriguez “innovative in his approach to investing and building companies.”

Rodriguez credited PFL’s global reach as a reason for the interest. The league says it has 600 million fans globally and PFL matches are distributed in 160 countries. “The PFL continues to build and innovate for fans, media, and fighters, and there is massive demand in the marketplace,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

PFL is a single-entity league controlled by investors, including prominent sports and entertainment figures such as Washington Nationals owner Mark Lerner, former NFL star Ray Lewis, and investment firms including Ares Capital and Elysian Park Ventures.

The league has a regular season and a postseason, which concludes with six championship competitions. Fighters usually receive $1 million if they win. Also, PFL has a media rights deal with Disney-owned ESPN and gets sponsorship revenue from companies that include sports betting firm DraftKings.

PFL has now raised $200 million since 2018. That includes a $65 million raise in February 2021 and a $50 million Series C in 2019. Davis said the plan is to grow PFL into a multinational company, including PFL Europe and PFL Mexico.

“Their local fighters, their own prime-time schedule, their own events,” Davis said. “That’s our focus in terms of expansion internationally.”

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