Former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou officially signed with the PFL (Professional Fighter’s League) in a historic free agency deal.
The New York Times reported the deal, as shared by the PFL, and it’s more than just mixed martial arts for the former champion. Ngannou is expected to pursue boxing fights outside the promotion for 2023 while also becoming chairman of PFL Africa.
The heavyweight is expected to make his PFL MMA debut in mid-2024.
“The past few months have been a very interesting time to understand and see the landscape but I’m very excited about this deal with the P.F.L. because they basically showed what I was expecting,” Ngannou said, via the New York Times. “They didn’t just show up as a promotion that was looking for a fighter, but really came as a partner that sees more value in you as a person.”
Ngannou will fight in the league’s Super Fight division, which was created to attract fighters to sign deals with favorable terms, including bigger guarantees and bigger cuts of pay-per-view revenue.
Social media star Jake Paul, who transitioned to boxing after YouTube, signed earlier this year in the same division. PFL’s women’s lightweight champion Kayla Harrison did the same.
Ngannou, 36, hasn’t fought since January 22, 2022 when he defended and unified the UFC heavyweight championship against Ciryl Gane. He finished his UFC career with six straight wins, including his last two over former champion Stipe Miocic and Gane.
Francis Ngannou signs with PFL
However, he entered free agency and negotiations did not go over well with UFC President Dana White and company.
“We get to this point, and I’ve told you guys this before, if you don’t want to be here, you don’t have to be here,” White told reporters in January. “I think Francis is in a place right now where he doesn’t want to take a lot of risks. He feels he’s in a good position where he can fight lesser opponents and make more money, so we’re going to let him do that.”
Both sides claimed the other was a bit unreasonable in terms of offers and demands.
“Let’s just say, all-in my deal with P.F.L. is more than anyone else offered,” Ngannou said.
Ngannou reportedly wanted more than just to play the part of a fighter with the UFC, or with any promotion. The PFL capitalized.
Potential deals with Bellator and ONE Championship never materialized. A return to the UFC was teased once a deal with ONE never crossed the finish line.
Although, that was mere false hope from fans who hoped Ngannou would return to take on Jon Jones. Jones, considered the GOAT of the sport, moved up to heavyweight this year after a long title reign at light-heavyweight.
In March, Jones submitted Gane for the heavyweight belt and since then pondered fights against Ngannou or Miocic.
But now, Ngannou takes his talents to PFL and the MMA world awaits his return next year.