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Chronicle Live
Chronicle Live
Aaron Morris

Former Newcastle University student on why he is bringing the Professional Fighters League to the Toon

A former Newcastle University student has spoken about how his time on the Toon helped him fall in love with mixed martial arts - driving him to bring one of the world's largest combat sports organisations to the North East.

Back in the mid-2000s, James Frewin was studying politics there - but he admits that his mind was always on other things while working towards a degree.

Now 32, James is the Senior Vice-President for the Professional Fighters League - an American MMA league competing with the big dogs of the UFC, Bellator, Rizn and ONE FC, putting on shows worldwide.

Read more: Undefeated Sunderland MMA fighter Mick Parkin lands a heavyweight UFC contract

Speaking to Chronicle Live, James detailed his time on the Toon and how it helped him on his way to such a prestigious position. He said: "I loved it, and I talk about it a lot. It was one of the best times of my life and it was actually where I fell in love with the sport of MMA back in the day.

"I've actually got this amazing photo of meeting Randy Couture doing a book signing tour. I went into Small Hall - I think it was in South Shields - and I met him. Then I ended up having my first fight in Newcastle as well.

James was a student at Newcastle University (Newcastle Chronicle)

"I was laughing with a journalist yesterday, it was in the old Liquid nightclub if that still exists - he didn't think it did."

When asked about his studies at Newcastle Uni, James laughed: "I didn't do too much studying to be honest, I was watching old video tapes from the old CEX, you know the CEX shop? I'd go out and I'd buy UFC 2, UFC3, take them back and go pick up the others.

"I didn't do too much studying I can't lie to you, but I think it was something like politics and history."

Ten years on, James now finds himself almost one and a half years into being the Senior Vice-President for one of the worlds biggest combat sports organisations in the Professional Fighters League. Founded by venture capitalist Donn Davis in 2017, the PFL has moved with tenacity - competing with the likes of the UFC and Bellator for the coveted top spot in terms of MMA organisations.

According to their official website: "The PFL Season features elite MMA athletes across six weight classes, including the first-ever 155-pound women’s division, with each fighter having two fights during the PFL Regular Season. Fighters earn regular season points based on their performance, with 3 points for a win, plus bonus points for knockouts and submissions.

Female flyweights will scrap it out on the night (Getty Images)

"Each fighter is then seeded in standings for their weight class based on their point totals. Following the Regular Season is a single-elimination PFL Playoffs which leads to the PFL World Championship. The winners of each title bout are crowned PFL World Champion of their respective weight class and earn $1 million."

And for the first time ever, the league is coming to Newcastle upon Tyne - a location in which James believes is a hotbed for mixed martial arts. He added: "There's lots of football leagues around the world, why can't there be four or five big MMA promotions.

"We're looking to play our role and when we decided to expand across Europe first, outside of the US, I was pretty strong in my mind that we were going to come to Newcastle first because there hasn't been a big show for a while. Pre-Covid I think it was right? With Bellator."

James continued: "We're excited and I'm committed to Newcastle. Newcastle for me has such a long, rich history of combat sports. When I go back to thinking of my time living in Newcastle, Tapout t-shirts were everywhere. It was one of the original cities that adopted mixed martial arts.

"For me, that's why it came to mind as the first place we were going to go - and we'll be back every year is my view."

As well as men's light heavyweights (Cooper Neill)

James also said although there are no Geordie fighters on the PFL roster as it stands, the event on March 25 will showcase the local talent of the area as well as big names from around the world. James said: "With the Newcastle card we're going to have men's light heavyweights and female flyweights.

"If you're familiar, you'll probably know we've got four weight divisions in the PFL Europe Season One - men's light heavyweights, men's lightweights, men's bantamweights and women's flyweights. So the structure of the season this year will be two regular season events - so two weight divisions will split across the first two events.

"So in Newcastle we're bringing the big boys in the men's light heavyweights and then we're bringing the exciting females in the flyweight division. There are no Geordies on those two rosters.

"So what we're doing is we're putting together a really, really exciting set of showcase fights that sit outside the tournament that will feature the very best of Newcastle MMA and competing against some other fighters from the kind of broader North East. We're gonna have a real broad mix, so we're excited about it."

The PFL comes to Newcastle's Vertu Motors Arena on March 2, 2023 before heading across Europe in the months after.

Here are all of the dates for PFL Europe 2023:

  • Saturday, March 25 - Newcastle, UK - Vertu Motors Arena (Regular Season)
  • Saturday, July 8 - Berlin, Germany - Verti Music Hall (Regular Season)
  • Saturday, September 30 - Paris, France - Zenith Paris La Villette (Playoffs)
  • Friday, December 8 - Dublin, Ireland - 3Arena (Final)

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