The two-hour event, which will be televised live on NBC Sports Network, is the first of four such events that will be held this year before the Professional Fighters League regular season begins in January.
Jon Fitch and Brian Foster will square off in the five-round main event at Daytona, and the winner will be awarded the No. 1 seed in the 170-pound welterweight division for the inaugural PFL season. The league, which will aim to compete against UFC, Bellator and other established MMA circuits, has a unique format. Fighters will receive a regular paycheck each month and be divided into seven weight classes. The top fighters during the regular season will advance to the playoffs, where the champions of each weight class will receive $1 million. An additional $3 million will be divided among other fighters.
The undercard for Daytona includes a trio of three-round bouts, all of which will affect the first PFL regular season rankings. Smealinho Rama and Ronny Markes will square off in a 205-pound light heavyweight bout, Joao Zeferino and Hermand Terrado will meet in a 170-pound welterweight bout and Jason High will battle Caros Fodor in a 155-pound lightweight bout. Admission to the event will be included with the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250 race ticket.
“The road to the first Professional Fighters League playoffs and post-season $1 million purse begins this January, but the winners in Daytona could have a little smoother start,” Professional Fighters League President Ray Sefo said in a release. “Recruitment for 2018 continues at a strong pace and we’re looking forward to welcoming more athletes into the Professional Fighters League in the coming weeks and months.”
The Professional Fighters League, which is headquartered in D.C., was co-founded by Russ Ramsey, an investment banker and hedge fund manager who chaired the DC2024 Summer Olympic bid. Investors in the league include Monumental Sports & Entertainment CEO Ted Leonsis and members of the Lerner family, who own the Washington Nationals.
After Daytona, the Professional Fighters League will hold events in Everett, Wash. (July 29), Las Vegas (Oct. 14) and Washington, D.C. (Nov. 4). Details for those events have yet to be announced.
“In this first-of-its-kind partnership, the Professional Fighters League inaugural event at Daytona will bring fans of MMA and stock car racing together — both of whom thrive on intensity and high-stakes competition,” PFL president of event production and business operations Carlos Silva said in a release.
Last month, Bellator MMA held bouts in a cage at Charlotte Motor Speedway and USA Today’s Mike Hembree reported that “more than a thousand fans watched some or all of the bouts.” Unlike the Professional Fighters League event scheduled for Daytona, Bellator’s bouts in Charlotte were held before the race, featured amateur fighters and weren’t televised.