Francis Ngannou’s Massive Deal With PFL Could Change Everything In MMA

Francis Ngannou wasn’t just interested in finding a place to fight. He’s done that for the UFC since 2015, compiling a 12-2 record with 10 devastating knockout wins and one submission.

Ngannou, whose contract with the UFC expires in 2022, was looking for a partnership, not contract employment. The Professional Fighters League (PFL) embraced him and in the process helped position the 36-year-old as potentially one of the most important and influential figures in mixed martial arts history.

UFC Hall of Famer Daniel Cormier said Ngannou’s deal “set a new standard” in the sport, and many others agreed. Ngannou joined Cormier and Ryan Clark on a recent episode RC & DC to discuss his new deal.

Ngannou’s deal not only improves his financial and professional situation, even his opponents are said to be in line for an increased purse to climb the cage with “The Predator”.

I had the opportunity to speak with PFL CEO Peter Murray about the deal his organization made with Ngannou and the potential impact on the sport.

“The signing of Francis Ngannou is an important moment for the PFL and it sets us up for the next phase of global growth,” Murray said in an exclusive interview following the announcement of Ngannou’s PFL contract. “This is the biggest signing in the history of MMA. Francis will continue to compete as an elite MMA fighter competing in the new PFL PPV Superfights division against major, major opponents on a global platform.”

At first, fans and others in the MMA community were mostly fixated on which promotion Ngannou would compete for, but it’s clear that his deal with the PFL is about more than advancing his fighting career inside the cage.

“Francis will help progress and develop the sport. Serving on the PFL’s Global Athlete Advisory Board, he will identify, recruit and develop future champions and ensure the PFL stays true to its fighter-first mission. Francis is such a big advocate for fighters in the sport, and he takes that role very seriously. He wants to contribute in that way and we are delighted to partner with him in that initiative, in addition to fighting for the PFL. Finally, what makes this job very transformative, as a current athlete competing for our organization, Francis also owns, manages and plays a leadership role as he will be the President of PFL Africa. On the heels of the successful launch of PFL Europe, if you will, earlier this year, we are now paving the way for PFL Africa to launch in 2025, and what better person, athlete/leader, to take that on than Francis Ngannou?”

Ngannou’s willingness to bet on himself made him an ideal partner to pursue a career in mixed martial arts and combat sports broadcasting. Ngannou’s pact with the PFL, which Murray described as a “multi-fight deal,” could set a new standard for top combat athletes. The freedom to compete in boxing has been a big deal for Ngannou, and it sounds like there could be some crossover events coming out of the PFL.

When it comes to getting this deal done, how important was it to the PFL to let Ngannou box in front of and alongside his MMA career?

“That [pursuing a boxing career] he was very important to Francis,” Murray said. “In contracts like this, we are focused not only on the goals of the PFL, but we are focused on the goals of Francis. As for his continued journey as an elite professional athlete, Francis has made it very clear that boxing is a priority as well. We are very supportive. We will be supportive and helpful to Francis as far as boxing is concerned.”

Murray also noted that the PFL is not new to allowing similar flexibility to other combat sports athletes. World Boxing Champion Claressa Shields was not asked to end her boxing career to compete in the PFL SmartCage when she had two fights in 2021. YouTuber-turned-boxer Jake Paul agreed to fight in the PFL in January, and did not have to give up boxing. However, Ngannou stands out because he came to the PFL as a mixed martial artist who was allowed to box. Shields and Paul were on opposite sides, which makes the PFL’s flexibility with Ngannou all the more noteworthy.

The PFL seems to be attracted to athletes looking to expand their brand into more combat sports. Would the organization ever look to promote boxing cards or any of Ngannou’s upcoming fights? I asked Murray that question.

“We’re focused on MMA as we build the league and our business,” he said. “As for the PPV Superfights division, we’re excited about the crossover fighters and some unique events. So more on that in terms of future crossover cards in our PPV Superfights division.

Ngannou is expected to make his long-awaited return to MMA in 2024, but the PFL has not announced his opponent. According to Murray:

“There is currently a shortlist of top MMA athletes that Francis would like to fight, and the PFL would like to make those fights happen. The list is growing and we have time to fight until the beginning of next year.”

Is it possible that Ngannou’s opponent could be someone who has yet to sign with the PFL?

“It’s entirely possible and there are free agents coming into the mix this year, and we’re excited about that,” Murray said.

It’s possible that Ngannou’s first MMA bout with his new promotion could be against an opponent he’s inspired to test his worth in the suddenly intriguing mixed martial arts free agency market.

Has Ngannou done for MMA free agency what LeBron James, Reggie White or even Curt Flood did for their sport? It is possible and likely that we will learn more about the impact of this agreement in the next few years.

If Ngannou’s story is successful, other fighters will undoubtedly push for more in their negotiations, while understanding that they may have more viable options than before.

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Forbes – Business

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