Today, PFL shocked the MMA community with the announcement that they’ve secured the most highly touted free agent on the market, former UFC Heavyweight Champion, Francis Ngannou. Francis hasn’t fought since January 2022 when he defeated Ciryl Gane to retain his Heavyweight Championship.
PFL, also known as the Professional Fighters League, launched in 2018. In just a few short years, the PFL is already reaching heights that many thought weren’t possible.
Following the fight, UFC and Francis couldn’t come to an agreement for him to stay with the company after they insisted he was asking for too much. Therefore he was stripped of the championship and went on his way. For over a year, fans, media, and even other fighters have weighed in on what Francis would do and what his next move would be. “The Predator” made it clear that he wanted to pursue a boxing career, but his MMA career would continue.
Francis Ngannou Signs With PFL
Now, on May 16, 2023, it has been announced that Francis Ngannou has signed a deal with the PFL. Not only is Francis under contract as an MMA fighter, but he will also have equity and leadership roles in the PFL. In addition to that, he will have a seat as the chairman of the newly launched PFL Africa and will serve on the company’s advisory board to represent fighter interests. Including such things as fighter pay, benefits for fighters, and much more.
Though PFL has a contract with ESPN/ESPN+ which is home to their events, they also have Pay-Per-View events which Francis will be exclusive to. Appropriately named the “Super-Fight Pay-Per-View Division” Francis will be much like a prizefighter in the organization while he will also be getting PPV points. Included in the deal is a guaranteed two million dollar pay for all of his opponents, which is a minimum base pay, and each opponent can negotiate for more money if they have the leverage.
This is a massive deal for the PFL, Francis Ngannou, and even his opponents. On top of all of this for Francis, fighters in general in the PFL are allowed to reach out and have a maximum of two sponsorships of their own on top of the companies sponsorships, this is something big for the fighters to get extra money and something the UFC doesn’t offer. This immediately sets the PFL apart from all other organizations and easily ranks them as the top two MMA promotions in the world, especially now that they have the hottest free agent.
One can only imagine that this will entice many MMA free agents to think twice about signing with the UFC when PFL has big deals on the table. It’s possible that PFL could bring in some other big names with the benefits they’re offering. It’s clear not everyone will be able to be paid as much as Francis Ngannou, but with more freedom as a fighter, being able to have your own sponsorships and do other things in different lanes without having to go through the promotion, it’s a very interesting deal.
Francis Ngannou has said that his first bout will be next year with PFL, and the opponent is unknown as of now. But, with a two million dollar guarantee for whoever is across the cage from him, there’s a chance that PFL could bring in another superstar that is currently not under contract with the company, and maybe someone not yet in the sport.
There have been talks between Francis Ngannou and Boxing heavyweight Tyson Fury to have two fights, one in a boxing ring and one in an MMA cage. Though many originally scoffed and laughed at the thought of Tyson doing a mixed martial arts bout, maybe the big money guarantees are enough to make the Gypsy King step into the PFL Smart Cage.
Overall, this is a genius play by PFL. Whether Francis boxes Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, or another heavyweight boxer, having the PFL represent Ngannou and mentioned alongside the boxing bout will draw a lot of eyes toward them. Plus, allowing fighters to go out and do extracurricular activities such as boxing without a hassle brings in a lot of goodwill to the company from fans and fighters alike.
Plus, with the addition of PFL Africa and having a superstar like Francis Ngannou involved with the process, we’re going to see a lot of great talent come into PFL, and some new African fighters will become superstars in the United States, much like another new PFL signee in Cedric Doumbe, an undefeated fighter and two times former Glory Kickboxing Champion who is also from Cameroon, just like Francis.
Whatever promotion would be the one to land Francis Ngannou would win the lottery. In this case, we now know that the lottery winner is the Professional Fighters League. With a massive signing like this and more eyes on the company than ever before, there’s no telling where PFL could be in the next five years. The sky is the limit and PFL is shooting for the moon.
By: Brady Alexander