It doesn’t sound like Francis Ngannou will be fighting for Bellator MMA in the future. Indeed, in a new interview with promotion President, Scott Coker, it appears that “The Predator” might be pricing himself out of the mixed martial arts (MMA) league.
Just a few weeks back, Coker laid out the elevator pitch on how he’d draw UFC’s former Heavyweight champion and hot free agent into the fold.
“Look, we have the same parent company as Showtime pay-per-view boxing,” he said on The MMA Hour. “So, if you want to come here and have a home in MMA and you’d also have a home in Showtime pay-per-view boxing. It will be like a one-stop shop and you don’t have to juggle around different leagues.”
Now, in a new interview with the MMA media filmed leading up to Bellator 292, Coker sounded less optimistic about Ngannou fighting under the Bellator banner.
“My guys have been talking to Francis, I know they’ve met,” he said. “Stephen [Espinoza, Showtime Sports president] met with him on the boxing side. I’ve always said it’d be a perfect fit for him because he could do boxing, he could do MMA, but I don’t think that there’s anything close to a deal being presented back-and-forth. So, let’s see what happens.
“Anything can happen, but I’m not sure we’re gonna be in that business on the MMA side,” Coker continued. “Maybe on the boxing side, it might work out. To me it’s like, it has to be equitable for everybody, and that’s how I feel. We have a pretty robust purse amount every year, and we can spread that around, we can take a lot of that purse and pay our guys, and sign other fighters, and keep building divisions, right? So to me, I’d say it’s 50/50 at this point.”
It sounds a lot less than 50/50 based on that quote.
Coker is basically saying Ngannou is too expensive to make things work for Bellator. That’s unsurprising considering the rumored going rate for a Ngannou fight right now is around $30 million. That’s how much MMA agent, Ali Abdelaziz, claimed it’d cost to get Ngannou into a cage or ring.
And it’s what many believe he’d make in a special rules boxing match against Tyson Fury (full details).
The Fury fight is the most likely next bout for the Cameroon-born Heavyweight. Fury and Ngannou have teased the bout over social media for years, and Tyson even had Francis brought into the ring to hype up a battle after “The Gypsy King” beat Dillian Whyte in April 2022. Complicating matters is a potential heavyweight boxing unification match against Oleksandr Usyk.
If Fury fights Usyk, Ngannou could be left sitting around until the end of 2023 at the earliest. While “The Predator” certainly needs all the time he can get to up his boxing skills, at a certain point being absent from action really starts to hurt his popularity. He already spent the majority of 2022 on the sidelines with a knee injury, and Jon Jones’ easy win over Ciryl Gane has people questioning Ngannou’s status as the heavyweight king.
Ngannou has some other big-money options in boxing like Deontay Wilder or Anthony Joshua, but there’s few MMA Heavyweights available outside UFC who make an eight-figure payday possible.