Francis Ngannou signs with PFL, includes options beyond the cage

May 16, 2023

Following months of negotiations that led to Francis Ngannou leaving the Octagon in the rearview mirror, the former UFC heavyweight champion has inked a deal with the PFL.

No financial details were released of what the PFL framed as “the most valuable signing in MMA history.” Under terms of the deal, Ngannou will fight MMA exclusively under the PFL banner, but his contract extends well beyond in-cage opportunities to compete.

Ngannou will compete alongside Jake Paul and Kayla Harrison in the PFL’s new PPV Super Fight Division, which claims to pay athletes 50 percent of the revenue from pay-per-view bouts. Ngannou is expected to debut in the PFL Super Fights Division sometime in 2024, though the promotion doesn’t yet have an opponent for him.

According to a report by the New York Times, Ngannou’s contract allows for him to pursue boxing bouts outside the organization. He told the publication that his intention is to box at least once this year before he returns to MMA in 2024.

Francis Ngannou joins Advisory Board and Heads PFL Africa

Beyond his athletic endeavors, Ngannou insists that the PFL brought more to the table than the simple fighter and promotional contract that most promotion’s offer.

“I am very excited for this game changing partnership with the Professional Fighters League to continue my MMA fighting career in the PFL’s PPV Super Fight Division,” said Ngannou. “I believe in the PFL’s ‘fighter first’ culture and global vision including developing the sport in Africa. With that, I am also proud to announce that I will serve as Chairman of PFL Africa which will be the leading MMA organization on the continent providing great African fighters the opportunity to compete on a global platform.”

The PFL expanded into Europe in 2023 and will have Ngannou as an integral part of its expansion into Africa. He will also serve in a leadership role on the PFL Global Advisory Board. He is the first active fighter to serve on the board representing fighters’s interests.

Why did Francis Ngannou leave the UFC?

Why Ngannou left the UFC would seem to be the obvious question that nearly everyone is asking. After all, the promotion is the Kleenex of mixed martial arts, it’s name being ubiquitous with the sport. And with opportunities to fight the likes of Jon Jones and having recently been valued at more than $12 billion, it would seem the UFC would have the most to offer.

Ngannou wanted several things that the UFC couldn’t or wouldn’t offer. It’s highly unlikely that anyone else was going to beat the promotion on money or the most challenging opposition. But Ngannou wanted the option to box. The UFC has only ever allowed one of its superstars to step into the squared circle and try his hand at boxing. That was, of course, the blockbuster bout between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather.

With the PFL, Ngannou is reportedly going to be able to pursue his boxing ambitions alongside continuing in mixed martial arts, though it is highly questionable that the PFL will be able to ink the caliber of opposition that Ngannou would have faced in the Octagon.

Francis Ngannou’s legacy beyond competition

At 36 years of age, Ngannou was also looking for opportunities beyond competition. The PFL has provided that. Framing its deal with Ngannou as a partnership, the PFL but the Cameroonian in key leadership positions in its business.

The leadership role on the advisory board gives him a voice in how the promotion deals with its athletes. The position as Chairman of PFL Africa could lead him into being the face of the sport, or at least the face of the promotion, as it develops across the continent of his homeland.

These are the opportunities that Ngannou indicates that promotions like the UFC, ONE Championship, and Bellator MMA could not or would not offer.

“The didn’t have much to offer more than a fighter and promotion contract,” he said in an exclusive interview with the New York Times. “I was looking into value and an impact and what I can bring it and attach also to my legacy.”

Ngannou stated in a recently released PFL promotional video: “I chose the PFL out of everyone in order to change the game of MMA.”

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