Francis Ngannou has found his new fighting home.
The MMA community started to feel like things were looking bleak regarding Ngannou’s future in the sport. A roughly five-month free agency period was met with several claims from promoters stating that “The Predator” was asking for too much, whether financially or otherwise. In the end, the PFL was willing to play ball and give Ngannou what he desired, signing him to an “exclusive global MMA strategic partnership.”
The then-UFC heavyweight champion of the world Ngannou stuck to his beliefs, resulting in his departure from the UFC and relinquishing of that title earlier this year. Having been in the same position not only at heavyweight but also light heavyweight, Daniel Cormier assessed the goals as only possible to start with and be achieved by someone of Ngannou’s caliber.
“I want to make sure that we communicate to the world that this is not a normal situation,” Cormier said on DC & RC. “We’re talking about the heavyweight champion. You always knew that if anyone was going to set the standard for what is out there as a free agent, it was gonna be Francis. The moment he announced that he was gonna be moving on, you knew that the standard and the bar was going to be set by Francis.
“Any athlete can’t just be like, ‘I’m going to go and do something different because Francis Ngannou did something different.’ They have to have leverage. Ultimately, that leverage that Francis had was winning that fight in Anaheim and beating Ciryl Gane, and walking away with the championship. He used it to try to accomplish something good.”
One of the largest sticking points for Ngannou throughout the entire saga was to have the freedom to compete in boxing, along with other business-related involvements. With his new PFL deal, Ngannou will also fill a role as the new PFL Africa chairman and minority equity owner. He’ll also join the promotion’s global athlete advisory board, making him the first active fighter to aid in fighter recruitment.
2023 is still the target year for Ngannou’s professional boxing debut, leaving 2024 to act as his MMA return when debuting in the PFL smartcage. Ngannou’s deal isn’t just a big win for him — as evidenced by the non-competitor positions — but his opponents as well.
Ngannou will fight exclusively on PFL’s upcoming pay-per-view “super fight division” events rather than the traditional seasonal tournament format. While the foundational format’s big draw is its million-dollar grand prize, Ngannou’s opponents can look forward to that just for stepping into the cage with him.
Cormier is no stranger to big fights and paydays. Having had rivals like Jon Jones certainly helped with such financial boosts, but seeing what’s cooking in the PFL kitchen has the former double champion clapping his hands.
“He feels like he can elevate the other fighters through his actions,” Cormier said. “Francis has a stipulation in his contract — at least it is thought to be that even his opponents are getting a bump in pay. It’s not just Francis getting money. The guy that gets to fight Francis gets a payday that may even equal out to a million dollars. There are guys that would never make a million dollars, but if you step in there with Francis Ngannou, you can make a million dollars.
“There are very few people that can move the needle like that for themselves and their opponents.”
Assuming the 36-year-old Ngannou sticks to this 2024 timeline, it gives the PFL plenty of time to continue stacking its roster to find the perfect first dance partner. The winner of the current heavyweight season may be the easiest or most obvious choice, but just bringing in Ngannou will create interest for even more possibilities. Therefore, possibly eliminating any fan criticism or fears of only easy fights on the horizon for arguably the best heavyweight on Earth.
“There is no organization that has talent on par with the UFC as a whole, but there are outliers out there in the world where guys can really compete,” Cormier said. “You’re seeing that now in Bellator, you saw it in Strikeforce because when all the Strikeforce people came, they became champions. Myself, Ronda Rousey, Luke Rockhold, Robbie Lawler, all these fighters came over and became champions. So, we always could compete.
“I think they have these outliers. So, to believe Francis Ngannou is going to fight lesser competition is gonna be very difficult to prove because it is tough out there. There are fighters out there that can challenge you out in the world of mixed martial arts. As a whole, UFC is where it’s supposed to be, but Francis Ngannou has set a new standard. It kind of feels like go play less golf for more money.
“Big deal for Francis Ngannou,” he continued. “Congratulations to the former UFC heavyweight champion on really setting a new standard for what is out there in the free-agent market. It feels real after this one. It makes MMA feel real after seeing what Francis Ngannou just did.”
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The MMA Hour with Francis Ngannou.
From the stage to the CAGE ... come on, guys.
15 seconds for Saricam.
Pereira talks 291.
New Cooking with Volk.
Some Fancy chats.
Heck of a Morning. MMA Fighting’s Mike Heck discusses who Francis Ngannou is going to fight in the PFL.
Reaction. MMA Fighting’s Alex K. Lee and Jed Meshew grade Francis Ngannou and PFL’s blockbuster partnership announcement.
SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE
I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man ♟️ pic.twitter.com/ED9wZY0Vz0— Francis Ngannou (@francis_ngannou) May 16, 2023
Listen guys , focus. One more fight I think I can get everyone excited about this. We have almost a year to figure it out. @francis_ngannou— Big Ben Rothwell (@RothwellFighter) May 16, 2023
We’ll also pledge a sum to Children’s Hospital
#RIZIN43 のポスタービジュアルが完成しました！如何ですか？— 榊 原信行 Nobuyuki Sakakibara (@nobu_sakakibara) May 16, 2023
Day 1,025 waiting on @CatZingano to sign the @BellatorMMA bout agreement. https://t.co/SwbMett1ID pic.twitter.com/yqiPq4sdkK— CrisCyborg.Com (@criscyborg) May 16, 2023
That’s great that Francis’ opponent is going to make 2 million $, but fighters still have to pay for their own medicals to get licensed by a commission. Not one major MMA promotion pays for fighters MRI/MRA, Neuro exam, Physical, Eye Exam, EKG or Bloodwork yet.— Daniel Rubenstein (@dannyrube) May 16, 2023
Face the pain.
Face the Pain‼️— Israel Adesanya (@stylebender) May 16, 2023
Back in the day when you heard this track…you know shits about to get REAL!! We’ve come a looong way as a sport. It’s been awesome to watch the growth…then I jumped in the game and played my part in taking it to new levels and to millions (and millions) of new… pic.twitter.com/PP7WimmMsH
Everyone to Utah!
If I’m not in London for the UFC, I’m definitely in Salt Lake for this one. https://t.co/yKeRiWpmln— #OnAmission4Gold (@KelvinGastelum) May 17, 2023
Vinc Pichel (14-3) vs. Benoit Saint Denis (10-1, 1 NC); UFC Vegas 76, July 1
Dustin Poirier (29-7, 1 NC) vs. Justin Gaethje (24-4); UFC 291, July 29
Jan Blachowicz (29-9-1) vs. Alex Pereira (7-2); UFC 291, July 29
Paulo Costa (14-2) vs. Ikram Aliskerov (14-1); UFC 291, July 29
Tony Ferguson (26-8) vs. King (29-14, 1 NC); UFC 291, July 29
Michael Chiesa (18-6) vs. Kevin Holland (24-9, 1 NC); UFC 291, July 29
Derrick Lewis (26-11, 1 NC) vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima (21-9-1); UFC 291, July 29
Stephen Thompson (17-6-1) vs. Michel Pereira (28-11); UFC 291, July 29
Aljamain Sterling (23-3) vs. Sean O’Malley (16-1, 1 NC); UFC 292, Aug. 19
Zhang Weili (23-3) vs. Amanda Lemos (13-2-1); UFC 292, Aug. 19
It’s going to be very fascinating to see how this all plays out. Even though I thought PFL was probably the best and most likely option, it still feels weird to know it’s actually been all sorted. What’s Zoumana Cisse up to these days?
Thanks for reading!
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