Co­me­dian Kevin Hart backs new league

The Record (Troy, NY) - - SPORTS - By Dan Gel­ston

Kevin Hart had a bit in his standup rou­tine where his at­tempt to trash-talk his way out of a fight ends up with the comic of­fer­ing a hug in­stead. “This is dumb. I don’t want to fight you,” Hart says to laugh­ter. “This is stupid. You’ve got to have a pur­pose, man. I’m not that guy.” Hart will leave fight­ing to pro­fes­sion­als. But he’s not against sit­ting cage side, es­pe­cially for a Pro­fes­sional Fight­ers League card, where he’s an in­vestor in the up­start MMA pro­mo­tion. “I want to be the guy where peo­ple can say, he’s ac­tu­ally there. We see him at the fights,” Hart told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “We see him sup­port­ing it. We see he’s a true fan of the sport.” The PFL ends its first reg­u­lar sea­son Thurs­day at Ocean Re­sort Casino in At­lantic City, New Jer­sey, be­fore a break for a post­sea­son that will award cham­pi­onship win­nings out of a $10 mil­lion prize pool.

The PFL emerged from the ashes of World Se­ries of Fight­ing and has fights streamed on Face­book and tele­vised on NBC Sports Net­work. The top fight­ers in six weight classes will make the play­offs and the cham­pi­onship bouts will be held on Dec. 31 at Madi­son Square Gar­den.

The At­lantic City card — PFL7 — airs at 9 p.m. on NBCSN.

The league was formed when Donn Davis, Mark Leschly and Russ Ram­sey bought the WSOF in 2017 for $25 and re­branded the or­ga­ni­za­tion into a tour­na­ment style — think March Mad­ness in a cage — league. The PFL landed two-time Olympic judo gold medal­ist Kayla Har­ri­son as its star, who won her first two pro­fes­sional fights this sum­mer.

“The ge­n­e­sis of the idea is, the day UFC sold for $ 4.2 bil­lion is the day I started this com­pany,” Davis said. “The UFC, con­grat­u­la­tions to bring­ing MMA into the big time. But what they haven’t done is to be able to make that into a sport where cham­pi­onships are earned rather than awarded.”

That’s cer­tainly up for de­bate. But Davis be­lieved the PFL’s for­mat can make it the top MMA pro­mo­tion out­side of UFC — though the grave­yard is lit­tered with chal­lengers to the throne that couldn’t sur­vive in a bru­tal sports land­scape.

“We’re try­ing to build the Pro­fes­sional Fight­ers League into the fifth great sports league,” Davis said.

Hart, the “Ride Along” and “Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence” star, said the PFL could be­come more than a niche sport.

“The UFC has done a great job and those fight­ers de­serve all the ac­co­lades they’ve got. But I think this is the av­enue that’s go­ing to cre­ate more op­por­tu­ni­ties and ul­ti­mately be­come a big­ger plat­form,” Hart said. “They’re all mar­keted and pro­moted a cer­tain way but they’re not re­ally putting other peo­ple in po­si­tion in to say, ‘ we’re the best of the best’ be­cause the road to be­com­ing the best is a road that’s ma­nip­u­lated and ma­neu­vered to.

“The PFL puts peo­ple through that gaunt­let. You get to go through a world of fight­ers and if you get through it you get the say, ‘I’m the best.”’

The PFL for­mat re­wards early fin­ishes — wins will earn a fighter three points. But the fighter gets three more for a stop­page in the first round, two points for a sec­ond-round win and one point in the third. Even a draw is worth one point. The PFL opened with 72 fight­ers in six weight- classes, com­pet­ing in seven reg­u­lar- sea­son events. The play­offs start in Oc­to­ber.

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