Despite the large sum of money Saudi Arabia is investing in its rival organization PFL, TKO Group Holdings remains confident about its position in the industry. During the first earnings call, TKO CEO Ari Emanuel and TKO President and COO Mark Shapiro eased concerns, sharing the moves the company is also making. The executives also stressed how “good” the competition is, which they claimed could translate to more opportunities for WWE and, more importantly, the UFC.

The $100 million investment Saudi Arabia is putting to PFL is part of its move to bring more games to its market. As the TKO leaders highlighted, nonetheless, the company has also been expanding in the same region, leading to a deal for a future UFC event in Saudi Arabia in March 2024.

In line with that, Emanuel underscored the significant relevance of UFC in the Saudi Arabian audience.

“At the UFC, we have a strong and stable fighter [roster], over 600 total. I think the UFC is where fighters want to come and want to be and as I said in my prepared remarks, we feel good about the future of our relationship with Saudi [Arabia],” Emanuel said in the call. “As one example, we recently announced that we would bring UFC Fight Night to Riyadh in March 2024, a clear indication that Saudi is very high [on UFC] and has intentions to grow this relationship with UFC. That’s kind of our feeling about it.”

Shapiro, on the other hand, highlighted the healthy competition in the industry, saying they treat Saudi’s investment in PFL as an “advantage.”

“We have no issue with Bellator, PFL, name your league. Competition is good,” Shapiro said. “Not only do we have over 600 fighters, we have the premiere fighters. Ultimately you’re trying to get to the UFC, which is akin to the XFL trying to ultimately get their players into the NFL. That’s what we are. Those are pipeline and feeder properties. In fact, we’re supportive of [PFL] being on ESPN. PFL’s been on ESPN. We were totally supportive of that deal and the Saudi experience should prove out well for us.”

In the end, Shapiro said that what’s important at this point is Saudi’s growing interest in bringing more sports to its country. In that case, with UFC’s supremacy, TKO will likely benefit from this in the future.

“Saudi Arabia is being very aggressive in bringing events to the Kingdom,” Shapiro explained. “They’re in discussions for the WTA finals in tennis, they’re looking obviously at motor sports. There’s rumors about a potential investment in F1. All kinds of stuff that are out there right now. All we know is they want more MMA, which is great for us. The more they have, the more it’s really going to just serve as an appetizer to what will be the meal, which is UFC.”

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