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Dana White rips Francis Ngannou, PFL over historic deal: ‘It makes no sense to me’

MMA: MAY 04 UFC 288 Media Day Photo by Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Dana White is not a fan of his competitor’s new deal with Francis Ngannou.

Ngannou inked an unprecedented contract with PFL this past week after making history by departing the UFC as its reigning heavyweight champion. The disclosed terms of the deal include concessions that give Ngannou equity in the company plus a role on the PFL board of directors, make him the chairman of PFL’s expansion into Africa, give him the freedom to box and pursue his own sponsors, as well as a provide guaranteed $2 million purses for each of Ngannou’s PFL opponents. Ngannou is expected to make his promotional debut for PFL in 2024 after pursuing his pro boxing debut in the second half of 2023.

At UFC Vegas 73’s post-fight press conference, White reacted the news for the first time.

“Based on what I know about the deal, which is not much, it makes no sense to me,” White said Saturday night in Las Vegas. “You’re going to pay a guy not to fight for a year, and it’s already been like [14] months. He’s fought three times in the last three years.

“It’s just not what we do here. It’s not what we do. And the day that we released him, I knew exactly what was going to happen. Francis wants to take zero risks, doesn’t want to take any chances, and he obviously didn’t want to take a chance with Jon Jones — and after we saw what happened with Ciryl Gane, I don’t blame him. I think the outcome would’ve been exactly the same, and I’m sure most of you do and I’m sure Francis does too.”

Ngannou, 36, is currently MMA Fighting’s No. 1 ranked heavyweight in the world. He exited the UFC on a six-fight win streak highlighted by a brutal knockout of former two-time champion Stipe Miocic as well as a successful title defense over Gane despite competing on a torn ACL and MCL. Ngannou also holds ferocious knockout wins over former UFC champions Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos, and Andrei Arlovski, plus knockouts of Alistair Overeem, Curtis Blaydes (x2), and Jairzinho Rozenstruik, among others.

Jones, the longtime former 205-pound champion, captured the UFC heavyweight title following Ngannou’s departure with a first-round submission win over Gane at UFC 285. That victory came after a three-year layoff for Jones, much of which was spent with Ngannou publicly pushing for an opportunity to fight Jones in a blockbuster heavyweight showdown that was ultimately tabled due a financial dispute between Jones and the UFC.

Ngannou told MMA Fighting on Tuesday’s episode of The MMA Hour that boxing remains his top priority while the PFL works through its already ongoing 2023 season.

“PFL is going to pay this guy to train for a boxing match that may not even happen and that they might not even be involved in. How does that make any sense?” White said. “It doesn’t make sense to me. Anthony Joshua called it a gimmick fight this week. When asked about that fight, he’s like, ‘I’m focused on fighting the best guys in the world. I’m not interested in a gimmick fight right now.’ And that’s one of the big problems with boxing right now, is it’s all about these gimmicky type fights, and that’s just not what I do here. It’s not what I do.

“Francis could’ve done a deal here. Hunter [Campbell] threw the kitchen sink at that guy. Hunter went to more dinners with Francis Ngannou and did everything in his power to try to get this fight done, and Francis just thinks that he’s in a position where he’s got some Conor McGregor [vs. Floyd] Mayweather fight on his hands, which, he does not. That fight was a once-in-a-lifetime type deal — a fight that I wasn’t very interested in, but at the end of the day it became so big, the right guys, the right time, the right place, the fans wanted it, so we did it and we got it done. MMA guys versus boxers doesn’t make any sense to me, but I know that he thinks there’s all this money in it. I disagree.”

Following the finalization of Ngannou’s new contract, PFL CEO Peter Murray called it a “transformational” partnership that amounted to “the most lucrative deal” in MMA. Murray pledged that PFL will take a hands-off approach to Ngannou’s boxing goals and refused to rule out signing other high-profile free agents to bring into PFL for Ngannou’s opposition.

White ultimately wished Murray and the rest of PFL’s officials luck, but indicated that he doesn’t have much faith in the promotion’s endgame. In doing so, the UFC boss mentioned several unconfirmed rumors he’s heard regarding PFL’s business dealings.

“What they’re doing makes no sense to me, their business strategy,” White said. “I’m hearing that they’re raising money right now — $283 million, $300 million, I don’t know what the number is — from the Middle East, and I’ve done a lot of business in the Middle East. Those guys are sharp. Who in the hell would give them $280 million, because I’m hearing they’re buying Bellator, right? So you’re an organization that’s burning cash, have no ratings and selling no tickets, and you’re going to raise $280 million to buy a company that’s burning cash, sells no tickets, and does no ratings? It sounds absolutely f****** genius to me.

“I know how this story ends. I get what Francis is doing. I wish the PFL all the luck in the world. I wish him all the luck in the world. It’s just not what we do here.”

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