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Francis Ngannou signs MMA deal with PFL, set for 2024 debut

The PFL has signed another huge name, but the former UFC heavyweight champion won’t be competing for them until next year.

UFC 270: Ngannou v Gane Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Francis Ngannou has signed with Professional Fighters League (PFL), but don’t expect to see “The Predator” in its Smart Cage until mid-2024.

News of Ngannou’s signing was announced via The New York Times, which dubbed it an “unusual mixed martial arts deal” because of all the bells and whistles attached. The contract is only for mixed martial arts (MMA) — Ngannou will continue to seek a big money 2023 boxing bout on his own without PFL involvement. Ngannou also gets “equity and leadership roles” in the company, including a seat on the promotion’s athlete advisory board and a role as chairman of PFL Africa.

On the actual fight side of things, Ngannou will compete in PFL’s new “Super Fight” division, where athletes will make at least 50 percent of any pay-per-view (PPV) proceeds earned. Ngannou becomes the third fighter in that division after Kayla Harrison and Jake Paul.

The potential is there for “The Predator” to make a lot of money ... if PFL can match him against the right opponent. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of big name Heavyweight stars floating around in MMA who might draw the big bucks, hence Ngannou’s decision to box in 2023.

As for how that’s going, Ngannou has had meetings with many top boxing promoters and sparred on social media with the likes of Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder. But, no deal seems imminent, and a possible Saudi Arabia night of “super” fights at the end of the year threatens to tie up Fury, Wilder, Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk. Leaving Ngannou with not too many options.

Unless, of course, the Saudis want to splash him with cash as well?

The MMA community has been somewhat skeptical of Ngannou’s decision to walk away from UFC’s Heavyweight title to pursue boxing. No matter how passionate the Cameroonian power puncher is about the Sweet Science, it’s hard to imagine his debut against any top name being very competitive.

It’s a cash grab, and good for Francis getting his bag, we guess.

Let’s not pretend this boxing thing is what the best Heavyweight MMA fighter in the world should be up to at the peak of his career, though.

As for PFL, it’s a huge signing and more visibility for the “Super Fight division, which offers pretty sweet terms for any big name fighter capable of escaping their contract with other promotions. It’s been a slow burn, though.

Harrison became a part of the division in March 2022 and has had one PPV fight in Nov. 2022 that she lost. Paul signed at the start of this year promising a late 2023 or early 2024 MMA debut. As the days tick down to his Aug. 5, 2023, boxing match with Nate Diaz, there’s no hint of any MMA training going on.

And now Ngannou has signed with the promotion, but won’t compete until 2024.

Again, the promotion is in the backseat as Ngannou focuses on his main target: boxing. The news is big, but doesn’t amount to much right now. Until one of these “Super Fight” division bouts actually lives up to the “super” designation, it’s just a lot of good pubic relations with very little cage fighting to show for it.

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