Baseball icon Alex Rodriguez is a World Series champion and three-time American League MVP. His ever-evolving portfolio also includes partial ownership of the PFL, one of the fastest growing promotions in mixed martial arts.
Rodriguez contributed to a $30 million funding round to the PFL last May, and he believes there is endless room for growth for the promotion.
“It’s an enormous market,” says Rodriguez. “But there is an incredible amount of scarcity in this sport. When you look at fighting, soccer, and basketball, you’re looking at three of the most popular sports in the world. There are thousands of games across the sport, but there are only 30 to 40 great fights per year.”
The PFL, which is backed by several blue-chip investors, airs live prime time in the U.S. on ESPN and ESPN+. It launched in 2018, and its roster is growing, and it is uniquely distinct because of its sports-season format, where individual fighters compete in a season. The first PFL Europe season just began, where events will be held in England, Germany, and Ireland—and that only marks the beginning of PFL’s global initiative.
“All you need to do is look at the macro trends,” says Rodriguez. “I’m not an expert by any means, but I do like [PFL CEO] Peter Murray, who is a great leader.”
The PFL is also proving to be extremely innovative. Its new Super Fight division, spearheaded by Jake Paul, allows fighters to earn 50% of the revenue from pay-per-view events. It also opens the possibility for a wide array of fights. Though Rodriguez remains in immaculate shape at 47, he promised that he will not be competing in the SmartCage, which is the PFL’s version of the Octagon.
“No, you won’t see me fight,” says Rodriguez. “I’ve been in one fight in my life, which was well heralded, at Fenway. That’s definitely not my thing.”
Rodriguez was on the receiving end of a catcher’s mitt to the face from Jason Varitek during Major League Baseball’s famed 2004 season, which saw the Boston Red Sox finally break an 86-year drought and win a World Series. During a regular-season game at Fenway Park on July 24, Rodriguez helped ignite a brawl after expressing his frustration to Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo, who had just drilled him with a pitch as bad blood continued to heighten between the two teams.
Now a broadcaster for ESPN, Rodriguez works alongside the exceptionally talented Michael Kay for Sunday Night Baseball KayRod Cast, which kicks off Sunday when the Texas Rangers host the Philadelphia Phillies. Speaking on an ESPN media call, wearing a Minnesota Timberwolves sweatshirt (Rodriguez is a part-owner), he offered his take on this year’s Red Sox, a roster that is full of role players instead of superstars.
“One of the challenges that I’ve seen big-market teams make is that they try to win by being like Tampa,” says Rodriguez. “When you’re the Boston Red Sox, when you’re the Yankees or the Dodgers or the Mets, you have to lean into your superpowers. That’s your big-market resources.”
The Red Sox, Rodriguez noted, have strayed from their strength—which, as it remains for the Yankees, was essentially winning through being a bully and signing the best players.
“You don’t have to be smart,” says Rodriguez. “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.