Former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou has made a significant move in his career by signing a deal with the Professional Fighters League (PFL). The Cameroonian fighter, aged 36, had been a free agent since parting ways with the UFC in January after contract negotiations fell through. This signing is a major coup for the PFL, as Ngannou is widely regarded as one of the world’s top heavyweights.
Ngannou’s venture into the PFL will see him competing in the organization’s new pay-per-view Super Fight division. Unlike their regular seasonal format, the Super Fight division features one-off events, where fighters receive 50% of the revenue generated from their fights. Notable fighters already signed to the division include two-time lightweight champion Kayla Harrison and YouTube sensation Jake Paul.
Debut and New Responsibilities
Set to make his debut in mid-2024, Ngannou is yet to have an opponent determined for his first fight under the PFL banner. In addition to his fighting duties, he will also serve as the chairman of PFL Africa, showcasing the organization’s commitment to developing the sport on the continent.
Ngannou’s Excitement and Vision
Expressing his enthusiasm about the groundbreaking partnership, Ngannou said, “I am very excited for this game-changing partnership. I believe in the PFL‘s ‘fighter first’ culture and global vision, including developing the sport in Africa.” This collaboration presents Ngannou with an opportunity to contribute to the growth of mixed martial arts (MMA) in his home continent.
Balancing MMA and Boxing Aspirations
Since becoming a free agent, Ngannou has been vocal about his desire to pursue a career in boxing, with dreams of facing WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and former title holder Deontay Wilder. Interestingly, his deal with the PFL states that he will fight “exclusively in MMA,” which suggests he may still have the chance to pursue boxing matches outside the organization. Notably, fellow Super Fight Division fighter Jake Paul competed in a boxing match in February, although he lost to Tommy Fury.
Impressive UFC Career
During his seven-year tenure with the UFC, Ngannou won 12 out of 14 fights, leaving the promotion as a reigning champion. His last fight took place in January 2022, where he successfully defended his title with a unanimous decision victory against Ciryl Gane. Unfortunately, a knee injury prevented him from competing for the remainder of his UFC contract, leading to the stripping of his title.
Departure from the UFC
Ngannou cited a “lack of freedom” as the primary reason for his departure from the UFC. He expressed frustration over rejected requests for health insurance and customized sponsorship deals for fighters. This move to the PFL signifies Ngannou’s desire for a more favourable environment that aligns with his values.
With this groundbreaking partnership between Ngannou and the PFL, the MMA landscape is set to witness a new chapter in the career of this formidable heavyweight. Fans can eagerly anticipate Ngannou’s debut in the Super Fight division and his contributions as chairman of PFL Africa.