According to co-founder Donn Davis, the Professional Fighters League was born on July 11, 2016 -- the day the UFC sold for more than $4 billion.

Less than six months after that deal was made public, the venture capitalist and several other Washington investors purchased the mixed martial arts promotion World Series of Fighting, rebranded it as the PFL and invested $25 million into the venture. Their goal was to offer a nontraditional model of MMA. Rather than rely on matchmaking, PFL fighters would compete in a regular-season and playoff format -- for a $1 million grand prize in each weight class.

It's a familiar model for fans of most sports, but it goes against the grain in MMA. It removes a promoter's ability to book ratings-friendly matchups any time they pop up. And to Davis and his partners, that's the appeal.

"We saw a huge MMA market -- 300 million fans -- that has really only been given one product," Davis told ESPN. "And that product is based on the 70-year-old boxing product: Two people show up, there's a lot of hype but there's no context. There's no narrative. No meritocracy. It was lacking that sport element.