Not since the day when LeBron James said “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach” has an athlete’s free agency ended in such a dramatically satisfying way.

Okay, comparing Francis Ngannou’s PFL signing to that of “King James” is an obvious exaggeration. Maybe it’s a little closer to Aaron Rodgers emerging from a dark room to announce the New York Jets trade that everybody already knew was happening.

Still, one would have to be blind to not see what a victory this is for the former UFC Heavyweight Champion.

Francis Ngannou’s unprecedented contract

How great is this deal for Francis Ngannou? Let me count the ways…

He netted himself a 2-3 fight contract with no champions clause that will pay him in the upper 7 or close to 8 figures per fight. 

He signed to fight beginning in 2024, joining the PFL’s Super Fight Division, where fighters will get to compete on Payperview and earn half the profits.

He’ll get the chance to box while under contract, allowing him more opportunities to branch out and promote his brand.

He’s going to be involved with PFL as more than just a fighter, being named Chairman of PFL Africa and acting as brand ambassador moving forward in what has been dubbed by PFL as a “strategic partnership.”

Damn. That’s quite the investment PFL is making in Francis. He even managed to get them to agree to pay his opponents $2 million.

He said he wanted to help other fighters get paid and, while it doesn’t sound like he got everything he asked for, such as health insurance for all fighters, it’s admirable he’s at least making an attempt to even the playing field.

Everyone kept pushing a narrative that Ngannou made a mistake

It’s quite remarkable this all came together considering how dire the situation was made out to be not so long ago.

Dana White claimed UFC offered Francis Ngannou one of the most fighter friendly deals this side of a Fedor Emelianenko. Francis said “Nah, I ain’t going to be your new Randy” and walked away.

The decision has not been a popular one. Dana was critical of it (no surprise). Former potential rival Jon Jones has said it was a mistake, as did Conor McGregor and Chael Sonnen.

The thought that this actually was a mistake reverberated with each promotion that removed themselves from the Francis Ngannou Sweepstakes.

BKFC claims to have passed on him, saying he was asking for “unrealistic money” (Francis says he never talked to them).

ONE claims to have passed on him, saying they couldn’t get “fully aligned on non-financial matters” (Francis says he took the meeting to be polite and told them he was signing with PFL).

Bellator…well…let’s not talk about Bellator.

Now the narrative shifts to asking if it’s PFL that made a mistake

Of course, there’s no question PFL is taking a huge risk in making this kind of investment on Francis Ngannou. The promotion has, to this point, failed to make much noise in the MMA landscape.

When the biggest (almost) success the promotion has had so far is Kayla Harrison — at least until she lost — it’s hard to understand how they’ll be able to pay fighters like Ngannou or Jake Paul. It’s hard to understand how they’ll be able to put together Pay-per-view cards lucrative enough to withstand giving half the profits to the fighters.

Will the deal ultimately be beneficial to PFL to have Francis on the roster while letting him compete independently as a boxer? We don’t even know yet if Francis will be able to get a high profile boxing fight.

Is Tyson Fury still available? Deontay Wilder? Anthony Joshua?

…Andy Ruiz? Tommy Fury? Zuckles? Anybody?

There are no doubt a lot of unknowns, but for now let’s focus on what’s known, which is that in this “ultimate” variation of chicken, Ngannou didn’t swerve.

There are many questions that need to be answered, but those are for another day. Right now, the only question that needs an answer is: “Is Francis about to get paid?”

The answer is yes. Yes he is.

From his bout with Ciryl Gane and his attempts to complete his UFC contract, to how he handled his free agency, Francis Ngannou kept betting on himself. He took the path that not many would dare take, and by all accounts, it seems to all have paid off really well.

Don’t let the announcement of fake title fights distract from the fact that, if it bleeds green, The Predator absolutely can and will kill it.

About the author
Evan Zivin
Evan Zivin

Evan Zivin is a writer, having joined Bloody Elbow in 2023. He's been providing his unique takes on the sport of MMA since 2013, previously working as a featured columnist for 411Mania. Evan has followed MMA and professional wrestling for most of his life. His joy is in finding the stories and characters within all combat sports and presenting them in a serious yet light-hearted way.

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