On Tuesday, the much-anticipated Francis Ngannou sweepstakes concluded with the announcement of his historic and highly lucrative contract signing with the Professional Fighters League (PFL).
This marked the end of a five-month period of free agency, during which the former UFC heavyweight champion attracted interest from various other prominent organizations such as Bellator, ONE Championship, and Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship.
Throughout this duration, executives from these promotions continually expressed their pursuit of Ngannou, while the fighter himself remained relatively silent. However, in a recent interview on "The MMA Hour" with Ariel Helwani, Ngannou finally opened up about his experiences dealing with each of these situations.
Bellator: ‘Very professional’
In March, Bellator president Scott Coker made a statement to MMA Junkie, claiming that his promotion officials were engaged in discussions with Francis Ngannou and his team. The aim was to negotiate a deal that would allow Ngannou to compete in mixed martial arts for Bellator while also participating in boxing matches under the Showtime banner. Coker expressed his belief that this arrangement would be a "perfect fit" and assessed the likelihood of a successful deal at "50-50."
Confirming the discussions, Ngannou acknowledged that he had engaged in talks with Bellator, characterizing the organization as "very professional." However, he clarified that he never received a formal offer from them.
“They said, ‘At this stage we’re not in the position to initiate an offer. We wish you good luck,'” said Ngannou, who didn’t specify when talks ceased. “So they never made an offer, and they never made anything of it. We never had a negotiation.”
ONE Championship: ‘Bro, this is too much’
According to the claim, ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong announced on May 1 that the promotion had decided to withdraw from bidding for Francis Ngannou's services after careful consideration. Sityodtong revealed that he had a three-hour meeting with Ngannou in Los Angeles on April 30, during which he presented an offer of $20 million for two fights.
Ngannou's perspective on the matter differs. He explained that his initial conversation with Sityodtong over the phone left him feeling that Sityodtong was being pushy, despite Ngannou informing him that he had received the best offer from the PFL. Ngannou stated that he sensed Sityodtong was simply putting on a show, with extravagant promises such as flying Ngannou to Singapore and Cameroon.
Confirming that the three-hour meeting did take place in Los Angeles, Ngannou stated that he attended out of respect and because they happened to be in the same location. He explicitly informed Sityodtong at the start of the meeting that he was leaning toward the PFL, which led the conversation to quickly shift to Sityodtong's efforts to hype up ONE Championship.
Therefore, Ngannou was surprised to hear about the $20 million offer, as he claims to have simply listened to Sityodtong talk without directly asking for any details. Ngannou described Sityodtong sharing screenshots of data regarding ONE's purported extensive global reach, which raised his skepticism. He recalled enduring multiple cups of coffee while listening to Sityodtong's statistical presentations about ONE Championship's projected growth, comparing himself to Nelson Mandela.
“Hey, bro, it was a hell of a performance. I applaud Chatri for his performance.”
BKFC: ‘This guy is just a joke’
Upon the news of Francis Ngannou's free agency, BKFC President David Feldman swiftly announced the promotion's keen interest in signing Ngannou, expressing a strong desire to have him compete in their highly competitive heavyweight division.
During a news conference on April 4, Feldman revealed to reporters that Ngannou was a potential target for BKFC. However, he stated that Ngannou had requested an exorbitant amount of money, which BKFC was not willing to meet, deeming it unrealistic.
Ngannou's perspective, on the other hand, contradicts Feldman's claim. Ngannou asserted that Feldman had never made an attempt to contact him or his management team. According to Ngannou, there was no conversation or communication between him and anyone from BKFC, debunking Feldman's statement.
“I just think he assumed that I’m so expensive,” Ngannou said. “Obviously because if he had to take a loan of his house to put on his show (BKFC 41), then I think he assumed that loan couldn’t pay me. I never spoke to him. My team never spoke to him. And then when I saw his comments, I was like, ‘Where is this guy coming from?’ …
“That’s why I didn’t even talk about it. I’m like, ‘This guy is just a joke.'”
Ngannou makes out in the end
Ultimately, Ngannou achieved his desired outcome with the PFL. He secured a deal that not only allows him to pursue boxing but also grants him PFL equity and an influential role within the organization as the chairman of PFL Africa.
Additionally, Ngannou disclosed that he successfully negotiated an undisclosed minimum purse for his fights, which he is content with. Furthermore, his opponents will be guaranteed a minimum of $2 million. In addition to these earnings, Ngannou will receive half of the pay-per-view profits when competing in the "Super Fight Division." He will also have the freedom to secure his own in-cage sponsors. Notably, Ngannou will serve on the PFL advisory board, representing the interests of fellow fighters.