Former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou vacated his 265-pound title and walked away from the promotion after failing to come to terms on a new contract; which at the time, seemed like the most lucrative deal available in combat sports.
It even came with the kitchen sink.
In the weeks following his departure, longtime UFC fighters criticized the move, claiming Ngannou “made an error” by leaving the top promotion in MMA. Others thought “The Predator” should swallow his pride and beg Dana White to get his job back.
Then Ngannou went and made them all look stupid by signing a landmark deal with PFL MMA, which includes a piece of the ownership pie. In addition, Ngannou will box WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury for an obscene amount of money later this year in Saudi Arabia.
Not surprisingly, the apologies are starting to roll in.
“First off, I’m sorry, Francis,” former UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier said on his ESPN show “DC & RC” (transcribed by MMA Junkie). “I want to fumble your bag, too, Francis. Can I ask you a question? Do you have to be a little bit naive to go out in that world like that and know your value to the point that you will even, when it looked dark, to stand on your loyal and go, ‘It’ll happen for me.’”
It definitely looked dark for a spell.
Despite his name value and accomplishments in UFC, rival promotions with smaller pockets were not in a position to write checks big enough to keep Ngannou happy. Those that could, insist the 36 year-old “Predator” wanted too much power outside the cage (a claim later disputed by Ngannou).
“He’s going to make more money than he ever could have imagined making in his entire life because, guess what? They’re fighting in Saudi Arabia, which, somehow, literally just bought the PGA,” Cormier continued. “Francis and Tyson Fury are going to make so much money. It’s a crazy, crazy turn of events for Francis Ngannou, but we are both insanely happy for him. I want to be wrong in this situation. I’m happy that he’s getting paid in that way.”
Ngannou is expected to make his PFL debut in early 2024.