Francis Ngannou, arguably the best heavyweight fighter in mixed martial arts, has officially signed with the Professional Fighters League. Ngannou announced his signing on Tuesday, months after vacating the UFC heavyweight championship and leaving the sport's top promotion for free agency.
After PPV super fight division, which also has social media star turned pro boxer Jake Paul and former women's lightweight champion Kayla Harrison. The idea is that the PPV events will see a 50% split of revenue go to fighters., PFL announced the deal, which will see Ngannou fight exclusively in the new
Ngannou is expected to make his promotional debut in mid-2024, according to the release. He will also be a part of PFL's Global Advisory Board to represent fighters. Ngannou will also be an equity owner and chairman for the upcoming PFL Africa.
"I am very excited for this game-changing partnership with the Professional Fighters League to continue my MMA fighting career in the PFL's PPV Super Fight Division," Ngannou said in a statement. "I believe in the PFL's 'fighter first' culture and global vision including developing the sport in Africa. With that, I am also proud to announce that I will serve as Chairman of PFL Africa which will be the leading MMA organization on the continent providing great African fighters the opportunity to compete on a global platform."
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Ngannou leveraged his name value into a PFL deal that will also benefit his opponents. Ngannou said that his next opponent will make a guaranteed base purse of $2 million. Ngannou will also be able to manage his own sponsorship deals independent of the promotion, something he was unable to do in the UFC.
"I have myself a good guarantee... So don't you worry about me fumbling the bag," Ngannou said in a video published on his YouTube channel. "Most importantly, I was even able to have a guarantee of $2 million for my opponent. Whomever I'm going to fight next, they're going to make money too."
Ngannou also expanded on his role with PFL's Global Advisory Board.
"I am the first active fighter to be seated on this board to take this matter very seriously," Ngannou said. "It'll mainly be a board that will be advocating for fighters for the benefit of the sport and the fighters. Not for the promotion, but for the fighters. Because there are always two parties at the table and most of the time we forget about the other party, which is even the most important, the fighters."
Ngnanou's deal with PFL is exclusive to MMA and he is free to pursue boxing opportunities, another roadblock he faced on the UFC roster. Ngannou told DAZN he'd like a tune-up fight in 2023 before facing Deontay Wilder in 2024. Ngannou confirmed that he's been in talks with Wilder's management group, The Money Team.
"Even Deontay Wilder, both our teams have been going back and forth, but we didn't get there because of his potential fight with AJ in December. We are still aligned on a potential fight after that," Ngannou said. "The opponents we have been looking at are Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, and Deontay Wilder. So far, we have only been able to keep conversations with Deontay Wilder."
The split between Ngannou and UFC wason Jan. 14 after the two failed to reach terms on a new contract. UFC waived its one-year matching rights clause, making Ngannou an unrestricted free agent. In the aftermath of his departure, Ngannou that UFC allegedly declined in negotiations. Ngannou had asked for all fighters to receive health insurance and be able to acquire their own sponsors, as well as to have a fighter advocate present at all contract negotiations.
"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 PFL because they basically showed what I was expecting," Ngannou said in an interview with The New York Times. "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 is the first reigning UFC champion to leave the UFC since BJ Penn parted ways with the company in 2004. The free agent attracted many interested suitors including Bellator, ONE Championship and various boxing promoters. ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong claimed that he never submitted his final offer to Ngannou because the two were not "fully aligned on non-financial matters."
"They didn't have much to offer more than a fighter and promotion contract, which was something that I wasn't interested in," Ngannou told The Times. "I was looking into value and an impact and what I can bring it and attach also to my legacy. I think there was a lot of media play, and a lot of people just know that this game wasn't big enough for this type of a deal, so they just stepped out."
UFC booked a vacant heavyweight championship fight between former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and top contender Ciryl Gane following Ngannou's departure. Jones won the heavyweight title via first-round submission at UFC 285 on March 4.