By Dane McGuire
After much speculation the hottest free agent in MMA, former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou has a new home.
First reported by the New York Times and later confirmed by the promotion, Ngannou has joined the Professional Fighters League. Always a part of the speculation, the PFL seemed to be the last landing spot after interest from Bellator, ONE Championship and BKFC failed to result in a deal.
Ngannou said of Bellator: “They said, ‘At this stage we’re not in the position to initiate an offer. We wish you good luck.” “So they never made an offer, and they never made anything of it. We never had a negotiation.”
He said of ONE Championship’s Chatri Sityodtong: “He was like, ‘Oh, I can fly you to Singapore, I can fly to Cameroon, I can this.’ He was all in,” Ngannou said. “I’m like, ‘Bro, this is too much. I cannot handle this.’”
Regarding a $20 million offer from ONE and later sharing of data about the promotion’s global reach: “I didn’t ask him anything. I listened to this guy talk,” Ngannou said…
“I was like, ‘Damn, woah.’ He had a lot of those (screenshots),” Ngannou said. “I’m like, ‘Hold on a minute.’ Anyway, that was the whole meeting.”
He continued, “I had to drink like three or four cups of coffee, listening to all those statistics how ONE FC is in Asia, Asia is 4.6 billion people, they’re gonna do this, the data shows that. He was showing me how ONE FC is gonna explode, and (telling me) I’m gonna be like Nelson Mandela.
“Hey, bro, it was a hell of a performance. I applaud Chatri for his performance.”
Ngannou would go on to call BKFC’s David Feldman a joke after Feldman would go on to say the former champion was asking for “unrealistic money”. He also said neither Feldman or other BKFC management actually reached out.
“I just think he assumed that I’m so expensive,” Ngannou said. “Obviously because if he had to take a loan of his house to put on his show (BKFC 41), then I think he assumed that loan couldn’t pay me. I never spoke to him. My team never spoke to him. And then when I saw his comments, I was like, ‘Where is this guy coming from?’ …
“That’s why I didn’t even talk about it. I’m like, ‘This guy is just a joke.’”
Following the announcement of his PFL signing he said:
“Let’s just say, all-in my deal with PFL is more than anyone else offered,” Ngannou said to the New York Times. “The past few months have been a very interesting time to understand and see the landscape but I’m very excited about this deal with the PFL because they basically showed what I was expecting.
“They didn’t just show up as a promotion that was looking for a fighter, but really came as a partner that sees more value in you as a person.”
Ngannou’s deal with the PFL is exclusive to MMA, allowing him to pursue his interest in boxing. The signing benefits future opponents as well. ‘The Predator’ has since said opponents will get $2 million guaranteed. Ngannou will be earning half the pay-per-view profits
Among the things Ngannou had asked the UFC for aside from money was for fighters to again be able to have in-cage sponsorships and for there to be an advocate for fighters during contract negotiations and health insurance.
Ngannou will also head up PFL Africa and be part of an advisory board for fighters’ interests.
“This is not an athlete deal,” PFL CEO Peter Murray told the Times. “Francis is an icon today in the sport, he is the best in the world at what he does, but he’s in business with the PFL. We’re in business together.”
Ngannou will debut for the PFL in a coming “superfight division” in 2024 after a boxing match at some point this year.
“Boxing is still on the table,” Ngannou said. “I always dreamed of getting Tyson Fury, but he’s not quite available right now. Even Deontay Wilder, both of our teams have gone back and forth, but we didn’t get there because of a potential fight against A.J. (Anthony Joshua) in December, but we’re still aligned in a potential fight after that.
“My goal is to have a tuneup fight this year, at least one before next year. That’s the vision for boxing. My team engaged some discussion with Floyd’s Money Team promotion regarding boxing, and we’re going to see about that, but we’re definitely coming out with a plan, and we’re coming out with something very soon.”
As previously reported, UFC President Dana White had said after Ngannou’s UFC exit, “We negotiated with him for years. It’s over. That’s over. He’ll never be in the UFC again.”
Ngannou said of his UFC exit and failed talks with White:
“I don’t have anything personal. I’m just doing business. I’m obligated to do what is good for me, and I’m sorry if what is good for me is bad for somebody. As long as I don’t personally hurt you, I’m just doing what is good for me. The rest, I don’t care. Why should I be upset? Everything has worked out very well for me, so I’m good.”