LAS VEGAS, NEVADA — UFC President, Dana White, has reacted to his former Heavyweight champion’s landmark new deal with Professional Fighters League (PFL).
It has been a big week for Francis Ngannou as he has a new home and a killer deal that he has shopped since his unceremonious departure from the world’s leading mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion. Indeed, UFC’s former Heavyweight champion signed with PFL and will fight in 2024 with a high seven-figure purse, on top of serving on PFL’s Global Athlete Advisory Board.
The tension between Ngannou and his former boss (White) has been at an all-time high for the past year, and it seems like it isn’t going anywhere. During UFC Vegas 73’s post-fight press conference (watch here), White gave his thoughts on Ngannou signing with PFL.
“Based on what I know about the deal, which is not much, it makes no sense to me,” White told the media. “I mean, you’re going to pay a guy not to fight for a year, and it’s already been like 18 months — he’s fought three times in the last three years. It’s just not what we do here. The day that we released him, I knew exactly what was going to happen.”
White criticized Ngannou when he released him earlier this year for wanting to fight lesser opponents for more money and take no risks. He reiterated that during the press conference.
“Francis wants to take zero risks, he doesn’t want to take any chances, and he obviously didn’t want to take a chance against Jon Jones, and after we saw what happened with Ciryl Gane, I don’t blame him,” White claimed. “I think the outcome would have been exactly the same, and I’m sure most of you do, and I think Francis does too. And the media makes it sound like I’m saying that he’s afraid of him. I don’t think that he’s afraid of anybody; it’s just that he doesn’t want to take any risk.
“He wants to, you know, PFL’s going to pay this guy to train for a boxing match that may not even happen and that they might not even be involved in,” White continued. “How does that make any sense? Anthony Joshua called it a gimmick fight this week. When [Joshua was] asked about that fight, he’s like, ‘I’m focused on fighting the best guys in the world. You know, I’m not interested in the gimmick fight right now.’ And that’s one of the big problems with boxing right now. It’s all about these gimmicky-type fights. And that’s just not what I do here. I put on fights with the best fighters in the world and fights that people want to see.”
UFC tried every which way to re-sign Ngannou after his UFC 270 win over the aforementioned Gane, which included numerous dinners with Chief Business Officer, Hunter Campbell, but ultimately they couldn’t agree on a deal.
“Francis could have done a deal here — Hunter threw the kitchen sink at that guy,” White said. “Hunter went to more dinners with Francis Ngannou and did everything in his power to try to get this fight done. Francis just thinks that he’s in a position where he’s got some Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather fight on his hands, which he does not. That fight was like a once-in-a-lifetime type deal.... MMA guys versus boxers doesn’t make any sense to me, but I know that he thinks there’s all this money in it. I disagree; I don’t think there is.”
While UFC’s head honcho was perplexed by the deal PFL (an ESPN partner similar to UFC) gave to Ngannou, he did touch on the organization’s attempt to do business in the Middle East, as well as rumors about acquiring rival MMA promotion, Bellator.
“I’ve got no beef with the PFL,” White said. “These guys have always been super professional and never talked any smack. You know me if I don’t like you ... I don’t hold back — I’ll let you have it. I’m hearing that they’re raising money right now, $280 million, $300 million from the Middle East — I don’t know what the number is from the Middle East.
“I’ve done a lot of business in the Middle East,” White continued. “Those guys are sharp. I don’t know who in the hell would give them $280 million. I’m hearing they’re buying Bellator. So, you’re an organization that’s burning cash, you have no ratings and selling no tickets, and you’re going to raise $280 million to buy a company that’s burning cash, sells no tickets, and does no ratings. It sounds f—king absolutely genius to me.”
In the end, White wished Ngannou good luck, but blasted him for not fighting PFL’s current champion.
“I know how this story ends,” White said. “I get what Francis is doing. I wish to PFL all the luck in the world. I wish him all the luck in the world. It’s just not what we do here. When you think about it, he’s going to this company. I don’t know what they’re paying him or what’s going on or any of that stuff.
“He’s not even fighting their champions,” White concluded. “You know what I mean? He wants the box. He signs with this company, and he’s not even willing to fight their champions right now. He’s fought three times in the last three years.... Am I the only one that this whole thing is just a bunch of bulls—t?”
Dana White talking about Francis Ngannou signing with the PFLpic.twitter.com/4VlfToFTTF— MMA Mania (@mmamania) May 21, 2023
Ultimately, it will be a waiting game to see if Ngannou’s “bulls—t” deal will be a wash or not. For his immediate future, he has said many times he will box before he fights another MMA fight, so now it is just waiting to see his next combat sports move.
For complete UFC Vegas 73 results, coverage, and highlights click HERE.