It’s hard to deny that Francis Ngannou won in free agency after he left the UFC as heavyweight champion before ultimately signing a lucrative deal with the PFL. He secured numerous concessions regarding his career as well as total autonomy regarding any future crossover fights in boxing.
That said, UFC president Dana White criticized the deal and the PFL’s overall business strategy when addressing Ngannou this past weekend while stating “what they’re doing makes no sense to me” and adding “I know how this story ends” after watching other rival companies rise and fall in the past. On the latest episode of The Fighter vs. The Writer, Matt Brown reacted to White’s comments while adding his own context that he’s heard the PFL is going all-in with this signing, which is why the promotion was willing to sink such a huge investment into Ngannou.
“I’ve heard through the grapevine a little bit that’s what the PFL is after now,” Brown explained. “They’re like ‘we’re going to go big or we’re going to go home.’ I can’t confirm this, I didn’t hear it from a PFL insider or anything but I did hear it from reputable source that they’re going to go big or they’re going home. They’re going for it all. That’s what it sounds like. When you hear a deal like that, because I heard it long before we heard about this deal [with Francis], and it kind of makes you think that’s the case. They’re just going to throw all their eggs in the baskets and they’re going to go for it.
“That’s kind of what you’ve got to do in this game at some point. The UFC’s got the control. They’re the top dogs. They’re the money makers. You can sit around and be second or third place for years and years, but until you take that risk, you take that chance, you’re going to stay there. I think that’s what they’re doing. That’s kind of what I’ve gathered. They were basically willing to bend however they needed to, to get Francis. Francis took advantage of that and it may very well work out for him.”
While Brown had nothing but praise for Ngannou betting big on himself in free agency, which led to the deal with the PFL, he also understands the inherent risk that the promotion is taking.
Despite his dominance in the heavyweight division, Ngannou has never been considered a massive draw, at least compared to some of the other stars in the UFC, and he also competes in arguably the most volatile and unpredictable division in the sport.
It would also appear that history might be against the PFL considering the long list of MMA promotions that have come and gone over the years when trying to breakthrough and find success when going up against a juggernaut like the UFC. Once upon a time, White even famously posed with a mocked tombstone etched with the names of all the rival organizations that failed to topple the UFC.
“They took a gamble and we’re going to see if it pays off,” Brown said about the PFL. “I think the over/under looks pretty bad for them. That’s about all it comes down to, right? It kind of looks bad for them.
“Good job to Francis. How much respect do you have to have for that guy? He becomes UFC champion, fought out his contract, goes and gets a deal like that, we’ve got to give mad credit to this guy and we hope the best for him but we’re not businessmen in terms of running MMA promotions but it certainly doesn’t look good for PFL here.”
Even if the PFL is taking a massive risk with this deal, Brown still commends them for at least taking the chance to go after somebody like Ngannou and gambling on his ability to draw the kind of audience that will justify his paycheck.
There are no guarantees when it comes to promoting in MMA and the PFL has obviously thrown all its chips on the table to back Ngannou as a game-changing superstar.
“I don’t know if that’s the best way to do it or not but they’re taking the risk,” Brown said. “It’s a business that they’re running and they’re going for it. You’ve got to respect that, too. I don’t know how they got the cash. I don’t know how they got the investors. That’s the funny thing like what they sell these guys on? What were they telling these investors that convinced them? But they did it so more power to them.
“Francis is going to get paid. That’s the silver lining. Whether the PFL lasts, whether this works out for them, who knows. Francis is getting his money and some fighter, who knows who, but somebody is going to make $2 million also [to fight him]. Maybe Junior dos Santos, I don’t know. The fighters are getting paid so Francis wins on that end but how the PFL comes out of this on top, I’m not so sure about that.”