The former UFC heavyweight champion’s global partnership includes company equity, event revenue sharing, a leadership position in Africa, and the freedom to pursue boxing.
In January, Francis Ngannou officially became the first incumbent UFC champion to make a formal exit from the promotion for non-retirement reasons since BJ Penn in 2004. It’s rare that such a notable name ever enters MMA free agency; the move was naturally accompanied by a swirl of rumors about where “The Predator” would end up next.
On Tuesday, The New York Times was first to report that Ngannou is joining the Professional Fighters League as both the foremost star of its “PPV Super Fight” division and as a strategic partner with equity cachet; the organization itself promptly confirmed the news. While much remains to unfold, this Nagnnou PFL deal promises to be a major money move that shifts the balance of power in global mixed martial arts in some unprecedented ways, including in his native Africa — and it promises to sprinkle some pizazz into the world of heavyweight boxing as well.
“I am very excited for this game changing partnership with the Professional Fighters League to continue my MMA fighting career in the PFL’s PPV Super Fight Division,” Ngannou said in an official statement. “I believe in the PFL’s ‘fighter first’ culture and global vision including developing the sport in Africa. With that, I am also proud to announce that I will serve as Chairman of PFL Africa which will be the leading MMA organization on the continent providing great African fighters the opportunity to compete on a global platform.”
As reported by Bloody Elbow’s John S. Nash, key details of the head-turning Ngannou PFL deal additionally include:
- His MMA contract is for either two or three fights and includes a brand ambassador role
- A revenue share of not just pay-per-view revenues, but other event-related profits like gate receipts
- The right to pursue opportunuties in boxing without the PFL’s direct involvement
- The ability to ink MMA-related sponsorships that aren’t necessarily PFL sponsors; this is expressly disallowed in promotions like the UFC
All told, the deal is similar in structure to Jake Paul’s own pact with the PFL in that it includes multiple distinct roles that go far beyond the cage.
“The PFL is excited to announce its groundbreaking strategic partnership with Francis Ngannou, the greatest heavyweight MMA fighter in the world. Ngannou will anchor the PFL’s star-studded PPV Super Fight Division, serve on PFL’s Global Athlete Advisory Board, and will be Chairman and an equity owner in PFL Africa,” PFL CEO Peter Murray said on the occasion. “Beyond working with Francis to advance the sport of MMA and scale PFL globally, I’m personally looking forward to supporting Francis in his commitment to fight for communities in Africa and around the world, inspired by his vision for the Francis Ngannou Foundation.”
Regarding the Ngannou PFL Africa chairmanship news, Murray told The New York Times that the organization’s expansion into the continent is set to begin in 2024, with first events targeted for the following year.
As PFL founder and Chairman Donn Davis put a bow on things:
“PFL has an expansive plan to become the first true global league in sports, with international regional leagues spanning all continents. PFL Europe’s launch in 2023 has been a huge success, and we will have six more PFL international leagues operating by 2026 to form the first ever ‘Champions League of MMA’ to spark national pride and determine the actual best in the world via the PFL sport-season format of ‘win and advance’ meritocracy.”
The next PFL events take place on June 8, 16, and 23 at OTE Arena in Atlanta as part of its 2023 Regular Season schedule — expect to see Big Fran early and often.
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