Francis Ngannou ended his free agency after signing his landmark PFL deal, earning a contract that not only will pay him millions of dollars but offer the kinds of concessions the UFC couldn’t match.
In addition to his pay-per-fight, Ngannou said he also secured a minimum of a $2 million for his opponents. He’s also received equity in the company, a role on the PFL board of directors as an athlete advocate, and a role as the new chairman for PFL Africa.
It’s a first-of-its-kind deal in MMA, but PFL CEO Peter Murray promises the risk was worth the reward.
“This is a game-changing partnership,” he told MMA Fighting. “We’re proud with the stage where we’re at as an organization, and we’re leaning into the next phase of growth, and investing in the product and investing in the fighters and our platform.
“We’re proud of where we are, but there’s a lot more work ahead to realize our global vision, and we’re going to do that with the best athletes in the world.”
While Murray wouldn’t disclose the financials behind the deal, he said based on disclosed money, Ngannou is now the highest-paid fighter in the sport. With the potential for pay-per-view bonuses and revenue-sharing with the promotion, his compensation could grow even higher.
“This is the biggest athlete signing in MMA history,” Murray said. “It is an expansive and most lucrative deal in the sport and for the PFL. In our view, it’s transformational. This is a long-term, strategic partnership and it’s a multi-fight deal.”
Ngannou’s deal also allows him freedom to secure his own sponsors and pursue a career in boxing; he hopes he’ll eventually challenge heavyweight greats like Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder.
Murray said that while the PFL serves as Ngannou’s exclusive MMA home, the 36-year-old fighter from Cameroon will maintain complete control over his boxing career. The PFL won’t act as his promoter, and Ngannou is free to negotiate his own deals as he pursues boxing.
“That’s accurate,” Murray responded when asked if PFL was hands-off with Ngannou’s boxing career. “We’re supportive of Francis taking on the sport of boxing on a number of levels, and we’re excited for that for him.
“With MMA, Francis is exclusive with the PFL to compete in MMA, as well as an overall business perspective.”
Ngannou has stated that hopes to make his boxing debut before the end of 2023 with plans to then shift his attention back to MMA and the PFL in mid-2024.
According to Murray that’s around the same time that the PFL will launch the “superfight” division where Ngannou will compete on pay-per-view. Murray added that there are no plans for any “superfight” pay-per-views in 2023 but instead the promotion will keep laser focused on that launch in 2024.
“Our pay-per-view super fights division, we have yet to execute the first event,” Murray said. “So with respect to launching in early next year in 2024, we have anchor pieces in place with Francis and with Jake [Paul], and we’ll be announcing opponents as well as fleshing out those initial cards. We will launch next year with mega, global events.”
When it comes to potential opponents for Ngannou in his debut, Murray said nothing has been decided yet. But he didn’t rule out signing another high-profile free agent to bring into the PFL. He expects heavyweights currently competing outside the PFL will want to consider Ngannou as a potential opponent with a $2 million guaranteed payday.
“Francis is prepared to take on all comers who are worthy, and PFL has the global platform for fighters to continue their journeys as elite athletes,” Murray said. “We have the key anchor in Francis for our pay-per-view superfight division, and fighters will be obviously compelled to go into free agency to have that opportunity.”
Murray added that there is a “working list” of potential opponents that both the PFL and Ngannou have worked on together, but “additional options will emerge.”
Overall, Murray said the PFL couldn’t be happier with the decision made to sign Ngannou to the promotion, and he’s excited to see where both of them go over the next few years.
“We had an opportunity when he became a free agent to come together and share our vision for the sport and launching our pay-per-view division, the need for fighters in the sport to have advocates and leaders in this sport and sit around the PFL boardroom table to help us stay true to our mission as a fighter first organization,” Murray said.
“That certainly sparked Francis’ interest along with our global vision of launching international regional leagues. We’ve been talking about Africa for quite some time and always had Francis in mind in a leadership and a partnership role, an ownership position and all the stars aligned.”