Wiz Khalifa, who is one of the world’s top recording artists, is an avid fighting enthusiast. So much so that he’s placed his financial backing into the Professional Fight League (PFL) as part of its ownership group.
After starting as a boxing fan and subsequently gaining attraction to MMA, Khalifa says, his cousins convinced him to get into a gym and train jiu-jitsu. That was roughly five years ago. From there, he’s “never looked back” as far as making it part of his lifestyle. He’s in the gym five days a week at Unbreakable Performance Center in Los Angeles, and when the opportunity came up to become an investor in the PFL — arguably the number-two MMA league behind the UFC right now — he jumped on his chance to plant his roots even deeper in the fight game and attach his brand to the organization.
“They looked as me as a special key player not only in the fight game, but just in the the entertainment world, as well, and we all we feel like we have something to offer,” Khalifa tells Rolling Stone. “I love the fact that it’s an alternative to what’s already out there. People deserve to be able to make a decision with what they not only want to watch, but where they want to fight. The fighters who don’t have contracts and want to get that notoriety, I see them coming over to the PFL and being huge superstars. I see a lot of people from different sports crossing over to the PFL. I see celebrities and entertainers. I see everything. There’s countless opportunities for it.”
Could one of those celebrity crossovers be Khalifa himself? He wouldn’t be the first person with a strong following from another industry to try his hand; just this weekend, YouTube celebrity Logan Paul got in the ring with veteran boxer Floyd Mayweather, sparking record viewership. Khalifa admits he’s given it serious thought. He takes his striking and grappling training seriously and knows that throwing fists with someone in a sanctioned environment is no joke — but it’s also quite a tempting idea.
The stars would have to align for it to happen, he says. Given his fame and status, jumping in a cage isn’t going to just happen on any given day against a random opponent. The situation would have to be right. “I definitely have interest in doing it myself,” Khalifa says. “I’m going to keep it clean as one of the owners now and I’m just going to take the steps, but I’m always training and if the opportunity presents itself and it’s something fun and it’s something that’s fun and it can be good for everybody, I don’t see why not.”
He adds: “I look at [the fighters] and I think it’s really entertaining and fun, and I think they’ve got a lot of balls for doing it. I respect it and I love it. It doesn’t make me more antsy or anything, but just for the entertainment side of it and the sports side of it, I love watching it.”
Khalifa’s personal tie-in to the fight is likely to only get stronger PFL grows. The promotion has a different format than anything else in the space, with a structured regular season with standing that lead to playoffs and an eventual championship final that pays the winner of each weight class $1 million. The next event airs June 10th on ESPN2.
PFL’s CEO Peter Murray says Khalifa’s involvement is thorough and genuine; he’s not merely a face for the brand. Khalifa is interested in daily happenings and has passion for the long-term, which is exactly what Murray wants from an investor.
“We’re excited about Wiz as part of our investor group,” Murray says. “He’s a music and cultural icon and the conversation started because it was such a natural fit, because MMA is part of his lifestyle. He’s training and he’s passionate about the sport as a fan, and part of his overall training regiment. He believes in where the sport is headed and he believes in where the PFL is heading.”
If Khalifa’s MMA involvement does reach the next level where he decides to fight, he says there’s only one song that could get him hyped up as he walked to the cage. “It would have to be ‘Black & Yellow’,” Khalifa says, with a laugh. “There’s no way around it.”