Deontay Wilder remains the PFL’s first choice when it comes to an opponent for Francis Ngannou’s debut in the SmartCage. But is the UFC looking to step in and snatch him away from them?
Wilder has talked a lot of talk about potentially crossing over into MMA and fighting in the cage. A big part of that is due to his troubles signing fights in boxing. He’s set to fight Joseph Parker on December 23rd in Riyadh, and it will be his only fight in 2023.
PFL president Donn Davis didn’t mince words on the promotion’s interest in bringing Deontay in to fight Francis Ngannou under ‘mixed rules.’
“[Francis] will fight for PFL in 2024, we don’t know if it’s first or last quarter,” he said on The MMA Hour. “And I still think it’ll be a mixed rules fight. And I still think Deontay Wilder is the most likely opponent. That would be unbelievable. I think the second and third options are much less compelling. So we don’t want to force those options in order to get [Ngannou] in Q1.”
Ngannou’s future is currently revolving around the outcome of a Tyson Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk heavyweight unification fight in February. If Fury wins that, he’ll likely face Francis next. It’s what “The Predator” wants, it’s what “The Gypsy King” wants, and more importantly: it’s what Saudi Arabia wants.
As for Wilder? He’s gone from showing up at PFL events and talking about MMA in general to specifically name-dropping the UFC as a destination.
“My thing is I’m trying to come into the UFC family,” Wilder said in an interview with ES News (via Boxing Scene). “I’m looking to cross over and do both boxing and going to the UFC as well. I’m serious about that. I’ve been getting a lot of calls. I can see myself doing both. Being since boxing is not going as fast as it should be or fighters fearing for themselves not to fight.”
“You have a UFC fight where I know you ain’t got to worry about records, you ain’t gotta worry about managers or promotions or whatever,” Wilder added. “The best is going to fight the best, because Dana [White] gonna make sure they get what they want.”
“Like he said, it ain’t all about record. It’s about the best fighting the best. That’s where I want to be at. I got several years left in me to be able to do this. I just wanna run it all out. I want to squeeze it all out until my time is up. I got a lot to deal right now. I just want to benefit both worlds. Being champion in both of them, heavyweight champion in both of them, UFC and boxing.”
While the UFC has been extremely resistant in the past when it comes to crossover fights, all rules are off when it comes to inter-promotional war. Would Dana White try to swoop in and snatch Deontay Wilder out of a Francis Ngannou PFL match-up? You better believe it. Could he offer Wilder more money than PFL? That’s the real question.
PFL has a ‘Superfight Division’ where select fighters are set to make 50% of revenue off pay-per-view buys. UFC would have to keep Deontay Wilder’s pay in the $2 to $5 million range to avoid completely disrupting their current fighter pay scheme. Wilder could easily make more than $10 million off a solid PPV showing against Ngannou.
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