Former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, after flirting with promotions like BKFC and ONE Championship, will plant his flag under the PFL MMA banner for a multimillion dollar deal that is expected to (officially) get underway inside the “Smart Cage” in mid-2024.
And since Ngannou negotiated a $2 million payout for his opponents (more on those terms here), rival heavyweights are coming out of the woodwork to score a potential “Predator” payday, including former UFC 265-pound champion Fabrício Werdum, no stranger to the PFL platform.
“Have you ever fought in front of 60,000 people in a football stadium? My challenge is done,” Werdum wrote on Twitter. “I guarantee the crowd, can you guarantee the fight? I shocked the world when I beat Fedor (Emelianenko) also when I beat Cain (Velasquez) and I became undisputed UFC heavyweight champion. You have a lot of holes in your game, let’s go, only one way to find out. PFL Smart Cage.”
Werdum isn’t the only UFC veteran with his sights set on Ngannou.
“Okay Francis Ngannou is officially the No. 1 heavyweight to call out,” longtime MMA veteran and bareknuckle brawler Ben Rothwell said. “I’m your huckleberry. Congratulations on the signing.”
Ngannou, 36, got everything he wanted after parting ways with UFC earlier this year, including a salary commensurate with his MMA accomplishments and the freedom to pursue outside endeavors like boxing. That said, some fans questioned how this decision will affect his combat sports legacy.
Particularly with Jon Jones ruling the UFC roost.
Francis Ngannou just wants easy fights against lesser competition. That isn't what UFC is about. Anyway here's someone he easily knocked out in seconds headlining on network TV— smoogy (@smoogymma) May 13, 2023
Fumbling the legacy sadly. But money is your priority so you’re all good. Good luck in the PFLs 1 million dollar tournament.— Pauli.♤ (@MMAPauli) May 9, 2023
Francis been riding that hug fest close win with Gane for a while now and we still don't get to see him for another year lol— Megaplayboy MMA (@megaufcfan) May 16, 2023
Francis Ngannou when PFL goes out of business in 2 years: pic.twitter.com/OsnvMGgsyQ— UFCStats (@TheUFCStats) May 16, 2023
So you ran to fight scrubs? Makes sense. Really good move for your legacy— BigSlugs (@CombatmmaB) May 16, 2023
Francis Ngannou is not the star you guys think he is. Casuals do not care about MMA fighters outside of the UFC https://t.co/ey7YWjHFDL— J (@kingmango777) May 16, 2023
Ruined his whole career— Grays (@AGrxy16) May 16, 2023
They overpaid for a 36 year old prone injury old guy. Cus the reality is, that’s just the age we know. Africans be lowering their age for better opportunities. My man could really be in his late 40’s .— Why always me? (@Randomguy_6) May 16, 2023
The journey to insignificance begins— Mania (@ManiaWP) May 16, 2023
Ngannou is still a year away from his PFL debut and a lot can happen between now and then, so it remains to be seen how everything plays out over the next 12-18 months. In the interim, expect the promotion to beef up its heavyweight “Super Fight” division to accommodate its latest and greatest acquisition.
See you in 2024.