Francis Ngannou signs with PFL with debut expected in 2024


Francis Ngannou, a former heavyweight champion for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, is now able to participate in a boxing battle this year thanks to a unique mixed martial arts agreement.

Ngannou, the former heavyweight champion of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, has concluded a highly publicized free agency period that highlighted contentious issues of fighter pay and athlete influence in the developing world of mixed martial arts by signing an unusual multifight contract with a competing promotional organization, the Professional Fighters League (PFL).

Ngannou and the P.F.L. were anticipated to make the announcement on Tuesday that they had reached an agreement on what they called a “strategic partnership,” which allows Ngannou to seek outside boxing matches while also giving him equity and leadership roles in the mixed martial arts organization. After competing in a boxing match early this year, Ngannou plans to compete in a mixed martial arts match in the PFL in the middle of 2024.

Ngannou’s upcoming fights have not been predetermined, but he is expected to fight in 2024.

Ngannou and the P.F.L. did not make any disclosures about the agreement’s conditions, including its financial details or length.

In accordance with the agreement, Ngannou will join the advisory board of the business and represent the interests of fighters as chairman of P.F.L. Africa, a growth plan to create events across the continent.

“The past few months have been a very interesting time to understand and see the landscape but I’m very excited about this deal with the P.F.L. because they basically showed what I was expecting,” Ngannou said in an interview. “They didn’t just show up as a promotion that was looking for a fighter, but really came as a partner that sees more value in you as a person.”

Ngannou will compete in the newly established Super Fight division of the league, which was established to entice boxers to sign contracts with more enticing terms than are typically offered in the sport, such as larger guarantees and larger chunks of the pay-per-view money.

The Super Fight division has also signed Jake Paul, a social media personality turned boxer who inked a contract with the league in January, and Kayla Harrison, the most well-known fighter in the league and a two-time PFL champion and Olympic gold medalist in judo.

Ngannou and Paul, two of the most vocal opponents of the U.F.C.’s athlete compensation policy, have joined one of the sport’s main rivals by joining the P.F.L.

Ngannou and the PFL began talks soon after he was declared a free agent, according to Peter Murray, the league’s executive vice president. Ngannou claimed to have held preliminary discussions with only one other organization, the Singapore-based ONE Championship, however executives for the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship and Bellator MMA claimed to have spoken with him.

Ngannou criticized ONE’s contract proposal, saying, “They didn’t have much to offer more than a fighter and promotion contract, which was something that I wasn’t interested in. I was looking into value and an impact and what I can bring it and attach also to my legacy.”

“I think there was a lot of media play, and a lot of people just know that this game wasn’t big enough for this type of a deal, so they just stepped out.”

Ngannou developed a divisive reputation among fans and competitors during his free agency because they believed he erred by turning down the U.F.C.’s offers to stay. He mocked their accusations that he “fumbled the bag” by posting a picture of himself sitting atop a luxurious Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicle on Twitter. With the P.F.L., he claimed that his choice was now worthwhile.

“When people don’t understand you, what you’re doing, obviously there’s a lot of criticism, but when you’re confident and certain of what you’re doing and where you’re going and aware of achievement, you just have to be patient and welcome the time everybody sees it,” he said.

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