The Air Force Reserve has entered into a partnership with the Professional Fighters League, a mixed martial arts organization.
The MMA league has agreed to place the Air Force Reserve’s logo in and around the cage during events, as well as in commercials that show in the venues and during broadcast on ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and the streaming service ESPN+, the league said in a Monday release. The Reserve and the league will also collaborate on creating exclusive online content, the league said.
The league will also continue providing discounted tickets to military members and veterans at each event, which it started during its inaugural season last year.
“We are proud to welcome the Air Force Reserve to the PFL family,” CEO Peter Murray said in the release. “We are deeply dedicated to supporting our military and veterans, and we look forward to strengthening our relationship with the Air Force Reserve by providing them with the ability to reach millions of MMA fans here in the U.S.
Murray said the PFL would work with the Reserve to “raise awareness of the incredible work our service men and women are doing" through its events, digital and social platforms and broadcasts.
The Air Force Reserve-MMA tag-team comes at a time when multiple branches of the military are worried about their ability to find qualified, fit recruits to replenish their ranks, and are looking for new and unusual avenues to get their message out. For example, the Army last year stood up a CrossFit team and a video gaming team to try to reach young people and encourage them to join the military.
The league’s fighters will also take part in events with Air Force reservists in communities and on bases nationwide, Murray said. The league’s cooperation with the Reserve is part of its “PFL Fights for Community” initiative, which aims to support military members and veterans.
Reserve Chief Master Sgt. Michael Johnson said the league’s commitment to supporting military personnel, and the growing MMA fan base of strong, passionate young people, makes their partnership ideal.
The PFL’s “relationship with ESPN provides an incredible platform for us to communicate our mission and the benefits of serving to an engaged national audience,” Johnson said. “We’re thrilled to get started and be a part of the 2019 season.”
The Professional Fighters League is the first MMA organization to present the sport through a regular season, playoffs and championship format.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.