By Dane McGuire
Aside from a desire to pursue boxing, Francis Ngannou’s options in MMA appear to be becoming more limited. The free agent and former UFC heavyweight champion and now free agent won’t be back with the UFC per Dana White, BKFC is out as far as bare knuckle, and ONE championship is now out of the running as well.
“I met with Francis yesterday for almost three hours,” ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong told the South China Morning Post via text message Monday.
“ONE has decided to withdraw from the process of bidding for Francis Ngannou’s services. After careful reflection, we decided not to submit our final offer. Francis is a good guy and a good champion. I wish him continued success and happiness.”
“At the end of the day, I didn’t feel Francis and I were fully aligned on non-financial matters,” Sityodtong added. “It is nothing personal. It is just a lack of alignment.”
Beyond money, ‘The Predator’ wants fighters to have sponsors again and an advocate during meetings, something Sityodtong. BKFC President David Feldman said Ngannou was asking for unrealistic money when it withdrew its interest in signing him.
Ngannou hasn’t fought in roughly 400 days since his UFC exit and while Bellator is still on the table, Bellator head Scott Coker hasn’t given much of an update since March. Still, Coker was hopeful at that time.
“Look, we have the same parent company as Showtime pay-per-view boxing,” he said on The MMA Hour. “So, if you want to come here and have a home in MMA and you’d also have a home in Showtime pay-per-view boxing. It will be like a one-stop shop and you don’t have to juggle around different leagues.”
Coker went on:
“My guys have been talking to Francis, I know they’ve met,” he said. “Stephen [Espinoza, Showtime Sports president] met with him on the boxing side. I’ve always said it’d be a perfect fit for him because he could do boxing, he could do MMA, but I don’t think that there’s anything close to a deal being presented back-and-forth. So, let’s see what happens.
“Anything can happen, but I’m not sure we’re gonna be in that business on the MMA side,” Coker continued. “Maybe on the boxing side, it might work out. To me it’s like, it has to be equitable for everybody, and that’s how I feel. We have a pretty robust purse amount every year, and we can spread that around, we can take a lot of that purse and pay our guys, and sign other fighters, and keep building divisions, right? So to me, I’d say it’s 50/50 at this point.”
UFC veteran Dan Hardy expected some time ago Ngannou could be making his way to the PFL and since the initial writing of this article, veteran journalist Ariel Helwani has since provided an update.
Per Sportskeeda, Helwani said on May 1:
“Francis is very close to signing a new deal with another promotion. According to Francis, he was very upfront about this. They [Ngannou and Chatri Sityodtong of ONE] left the meeting on good terms, but both of them came to an understanding that because he had already verbally committed to someone, it’s more than likely he’s not going to ONE… I thought it was really interesting when I asked him [Ngannou] about PFL, that was the one that really got him fired up.”
As previously reported, Floyd Mayweather is interested in signing Ngannou to Mayweather Promotions to box.
“I would love to work with (Ngannou),” Mayweather said, speaking to Bet Online. “I would love to sign him to Mayweather Promotions. He’s a very skilled guy, unbelievable, and if he wants to fight one of the top heavyweight guys, he should do it.”
“Absolutely. With his size, strength and power – anything can happen. With his power and his toughness, he can make some noise in the heavyweight division,” Mayweather said.
While the PFL hasn’t offered an update on the situation since mid-April, the PFL CEO Peter Murray seemed open to crossing sports in order to sign him.
“Hey, listen. Francis made it very clear that he’s going to box. We’re excited to see how those plans materialize. We have a very close relationship and more to come on next steps on Francis related to MMA,” Murray said.