Francis Ngannou is close to finding his next MMA home.
In January, Ngannou officially entered free agency after protracted contract renewal talks with the UFC fell through. Now, that free agency appears to be close to ending as Ngannou revealed he is has narrowed his future MMA promoter to two leading candidates.
“I have made a decision,” Ngannou told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour on Wednesday. “Without making a done deal, I know what my next move is going to be. I know that I want to fight boxing first and then after that I will fight MMA. I’m going to sign with one MMA promotion. I haven’t made a decision on that yet, [but I’m] very close. ...
“PFL and ONE FC right now, we are very close. We will see.”
As two of the leading non-UFC promotions in the sport, signing Ngannou, the top-ranked heavyweight in the world, would be a coup for either company. And while Ngannou has yet to decide between the two, “The Predator” has been pleasantly surprised by how negotiations have gone.
One of the primary issues Ngannou cited when talking about his struggles with the UFC was the restrictive nature of UFC contracts and the lack of respect he felt from the promotion. That hasn’t been the case during his short time in free agency.
“I’m going to do what I’m doing, and what is interesting about it, obviously there is huge money down here, but also, most of this deal has been viewed as a partnership, which is great for me,” Ngannou said. “I feel well-respected, appreciated. It is different. It feels different.
“Listen, I never thought there was an MMA promotion that pays more than UFC, or that has [more] money than the UFC. If the UFC wants to pay somebody, they will pay you, but the way that he comes, I’m not down for it. I’d rather get something with more value. My last three years weren’t so happy, so excited. Maybe at the end of the day, this is good for everybody.”
Ngannou said money was not the primary driver for him in choosing free agency. Another major sticking point for “The Predator” was the UFC’s refusal to budge him on requests for health care for all fighters, outside sponsorship, and fighter advocates at the negotiating table. Those were non-negotiable for the UFC, but he said other promotions brought them to the table first without him having to ask.
“Guess what? So many of them are coming up with some of the stuff I asked for,” Ngannou said. “They are proposing a plan to work on it, to get it better. Obviously we can’t get everything done at once, but there is a [willingness] to improve, to make things better. ...
“I was surprised. I didn’t have to even fight about it. I didn’t have to even ask. There were just coming up with some offers, proposing some terms that really get me excited.”
Another factor Ngannou is focused on for his signing is the opportunity to make an event happen in Africa. For years the UFC talked about going to Africa but has still yet to deliver, and Ngannou says that will be a priority for him moving forward.
“We have to do something in Africa,” he said. “It’s time to get stuff out here in Africa. I don’t have to travel all the time. I will still travel, because it takes time to build. But either way, we’re going to build something out here. Maybe if it’s not for me, then it will be for my people. That’s the condition.”
For now, though, Ngannou said the focus is on boxing. Though he remains open to offers from other fighters, “The Baddest Man on the Planet” says that the most likely scenario is facing former WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder this summer. And when it happens, Ngannou believes there’s only one possible outcome: violence.
“I think somebody will take somebody’s head off,” Ngannou said. “I would just try [for it] not to be mine. [Laughs]. I think that’s probably what’s going to happen.”