PFL International Senior Vice President James Frewin has revealed fans can expect “more events, more big moments and more access than ever” heading into 2024, following an “incredibly successful” inaugural season. Jake Smith spoke with Frewin ahead of the promotion’s final show of the year to preview their upcoming card and review their first season.
We are now in PFL Dublin fight week. How much are you looking forward to rounding off the year with a huge show in the Irish capital?
We could not be more excited. This is the culmination of a long season for these athletes in Europe. Started with 32 athletes and it’s boiling down to this. We couldn’t be more excited. We’re obviously big fans of Dublin and the energy here with the fighting Irish and you know, we wanted to respect the fact that Dublin’s been an epicentre for, certainly, European MMA but you could argue, global MMA over the last ten years.
And we’re delighted with the decision. The building’s going to be full, the energy is going to be high. Yeah, we can’t wait. We’re delighted to be here.
From Newcastle, to Berlin, to Paris, to Dublin, it’s been a busy year. How would you assess the inaugural PFL European Tournament?
It’s been incredibly successful, both on the business side, but also as we built the fan base and, you know, raised the profile of our unique format. I think when we launched there were questions ‘Will this format work?’ And ‘Are PFL going to put on exciting fights?’ but every single event has gone from strength to strength.
Newcastle was an incredible show, Berlin is an incredible city and have a massive MMA audience out there. Paris, I mean spoke for itself right? That was an incredible moment with Cédric Doumbé and the wider card. But now it’s about the culmination of a long season and we think this is going to be the biggest show.
There have been some incredibly talented athletes competing throughout the four cards. The likes of Simeon Powell and Dakota Ditcheva have shone but Who have you been most impressed with?
Dan Hardy, Head of Fighter Operations, has done an incredible job putting a roster together of incredible athletes. So, you know, first and foremost, it’s been unbelievable to see the level of European mixed martial arts. And really that’s why we’re here. We’re here to give those athletes a real global platform and a pathway to going from a regional European champion up into the World League. That’s why we are here.
We’re also here for the fans, to give them more of what they love on a consistent basis. But I would say, there’s been multiple great examples. Obviously, you mentioned Simeon and Dakota. I mean, 25-year-old, 9-0, and unbeaten prodigies of this game competing in the PFL Smart Cage three times this year now and you know those two have certainly been the face but there’s plenty more.
We’re in Dublin, John Mitchell is a great story. 8-1, young lad from Cork competing on a regional show and gets the call from the PFL and is now in a title fight for life changing money in his home country in Dublin, Ireland. I’d say John is definitely up there and then obviously outside of the season, you’ve got young Lewis McGrillen who continues to excite.
He’s a walking highlight reel and from the amateurs all the way through to the pros, I think that there’s something really special about Lewis and all things being well, he makes it through this fight. He’ll be in the PFL Europe season next year.
What would you say have been the biggest standout moments from all of the shows so far?
So I mean first and foremost it will be the Cédric Doumbé knockout, which was something else really the energy in the room. He’s an unbelievable athlete but also he’s a great promoter and the storytelling and the storylines that sat behind that fight, really built it up. And to finish someone in 9 seconds is incredible, to be honest.
I’d say up there as well is young Dakota, who, again, showed us that she’s got it all. And I know the PFL Fighter Operations team are incredibly excited about her future. She is really on the cusp of becoming a global star in this sport and she can really transcend female MMA as well.
So her finish or finishes throughout the season, but her finish in Paris was something else as well, so I’d probably call out those two, but there’s been many, many more. And I think again, when we look at what the card looks like for Friday, every fight means something from the bottom all the way to the top.
PFL have now acquired Bellator. What are your plans for the European talent currently signed to Bellator? Will they compete on stand-alone Bellator shows or could we see some fighters move over and potentially compete in the PFL tournaments?
So more will be announced on that. I know that Ray Sefo and his team are working hard on what the plan is. I think the opportunity is to create synergies between the PFL’s unique format and then the more one off show event basis that Bellator operates in. So I think you will see plenty of exciting crossover where it makes sense, but nothing to announce on that yet.
I am sure you are aware of the comments Dana White made following the official announcement of the acquisition. What are your thoughts about what he said?
Look, I think for us, we’re in this business for the reasons I’ve described and competition in anything you do in life, whether it’s sports, whether it’s business, is good for everyone. And, you know, I think that’s what we look forward to in 2024 is creating more opportunities for fighters and fans and that’s what matters to us.
You know, we are now a powerhouse in MMA. We are a co-leader in the sport. And yeah, we can’t wait for 2024.
You’ve been there since day one of PFL Europe. On a personal note, just how proud are you of what the promotion has achieved in its first 12 months?
Honestly speaking, it has been an unbelievable year and really, kudos to the team. The team worked so hard on every aspect of what comes together with it. With not just a combat sports promotion, but also in building a brand new business. And obviously, we got a lot of support from our colleagues in the US and again, testament to what those guys have built over the last four years.
But PFL Europe has been an incredible success and we now have a platform to continue to grow it. And as I say, create more opportunity for the athletes, which is the number one priority and number two, more opportunity for the fans to engage, enjoy and follow the sport that they love.
Finally James, what can fight fans expect from PFL in 2024?
Well, plans will be revealed very soon, so you won’t have to wait very long. But I think ultimately more events, more bigger moments, more access than ever. And yeah, we will be flying by the end of 24, that’s for sure.