Israel Adesanya thinks Francis Ngannou may have just changed the game.
On Tuesday, news broke that Ngannou signed with the PFL in a landmark deal, ending one of the biggest free agencies in MMA history. Aside from the financials, which appear to be substantial, Ngannou also negotiated a number of other concessions including equity in the company, a role on the PFL board of directors as an athlete advocate, a role as the chairman of PFL Africa, the right to box and pursue his own sponsors, and also a guaranteed purse of $2 million for each of his opponents in the PFL. By almost any definition, it’s a king’s ransom, and as Ngannou’s longtime friend, Adesanya couldn’t be happier.
“It’s good news,” Adesanya said on his YouTube channel. “It’s good for the game, I think. What I really like is how his opponent is guaranteed [$2] million. That’s cool. What he’s doing with PFL Africa ... Francis has a seat at the board, at the table, that’s cool. But this thing where his opponent is guaranteed [$2] million, how many fighters are going to be like, ‘Right, I need to get to the PFL. I want to fight Francis.’ Because Francis is the guy, he’s the money fight. So that’s another twist on it that I like.”
Adesanya is not the only one. A number of other fighters reacted positively to Ngannou’s big deal, with former opponents praising him, and possible future opponents lining up at the chance to make $2 million. And it’s that piece of it that Adesanya believes could be a game-changer — not just for Ngannou, but for the industry as a whole.
“I think the UFC, they’re not dumb,” Adesanya said. “They’ll take notice. They know how to adapt. When something like this happens in another field, it creates a big ripple in the game. A big enough ripple can force the UFC to change the way, a small change.”
While Adesanya appears to be happy with the UFC overall, even inking an extension with the company in 2022, “The Last Stylebender” has been willing to speak out against some practices that he doesn’t agree with, like the low level of payment and support for new UFC fighters. He also defended Ngannou’s decision to leave the UFC during an interview while in attendance at UFC 284, saying that “the way we do business has to change, and it will change.” And he believes that change is coming, thanks to Ngannou.
“The UFC will make change,” Adesanya said. “Rome wasn’t built in a day. So this is a big f****** move. It causes a ripple that forces change.”