Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Francis Ngannou Signs Exclusive Partnership with PFL, Will Box and Serve as Chairman of PFL Africa
Francis Ngannou, the former UFC heavyweight champion, has signed an exclusive global MMA strategic partnership with the Professional Fighters League (PFL), according to a statement. Ngannou is the first African heavyweight world champion in history and is widely considered the best heavyweight in the world. His deal with PFL will allow him to box, a stipulation he insisted on while he was still under contract with the UFC. Ngannou plans on making his boxing debut later this year and returning to MMA in mid-2024. Ngannou will be appointed as the chairman of PFL Africa and will also serve on the company's advisory board, representing the interests of fighters, as a part of the agreement.
The PFL is a five-year-old mixed martial arts company quickly becoming a household name, and the partnership with Ngannou is set to boost visibility for its newest division. Ngannou has committed to competing only in MMA for the PFL's recently established Super Fight Division for PPV events, alongside notable combat sports icons such as Jake Paul and Kayla Harrison. The Super Fight Division was launched to revamp the antiquated business model of MMA and to forge true economic partnerships with the sport’s top stars to compete in global mega-events, offering 50% of the revenue from the PPV fights.
Ngannou’s deal with PFL is unique, as it allows him to pursue boxing matches outside the organization. He told The New York Times that his intention is to box at least once this year before he returns to MMA in 2024. Ngannou won the UFC heavyweight title by knocking out Stipe Miocic in 2021, and his last fight was a unanimous decision victory over Ciryl Gane in a January 2022 title defense. Since 2018, he has been on a winning streak of six consecutive victories and has not suffered a defeat.
Ngannou became a free agent in December of last year, and the UFC ended their negotiations a month later, officially parting ways. However, the relationship between the UFC and Ngannou appeared to have soured well before then, when—after winning the heavyweight title from Stipe Miocic—he refused to sign a new contract unless certain conditions were met. The most significant among them appeared to be the privilege to participate in a boxing bout.
Following numerous rumors, PFL has officially declared that Ngannou will exclusively compete in the PPV super fight category, alongside social media personality turned professional boxer Jake Paul and former women's lightweight champion Kayla Harrison. It is proposed that fighters will receive a 50% share of the revenue generated from PPV events.
Ngannou's deal with PFL is a major threat to the way major promoters like UFC typically operate. He has been willing to use his platform and risk leverage to create a better tomorrow for MMA athletes. During a time when fighter compensation is frequently discussed, Ngannou's aspirations to enhance various aspects, such as medical coverage and the elimination of oppressive agreements, pose a significant challenge to the conventional practices of prominent promoters like UFC. There were multiple things that Ngannou desired, but the UFC was either unable or unwilling to provide them. It is improbable that any other individual could surpass the offer in terms of finances or face a more difficult adversary.
Overall, Ngannou’s deal with PFL is a major coup for the company and for combat sports in general. It will allow him to pursue his interests in boxing while also continuing to compete in MMA, and it will give him a platform to advocate for fighter interests on a global scale. With Ngannou’s star power and his willingness to push for change in the sport, PFL is poised to become a major player in the MMA world.
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