The Francis Ngannou Gamble
So Francis Ngannou has signed a historic deal with the PFL. It lets him box and continue pursuing MMA while giving him a chairman position of “PFL Africa” according to the New York Times piece that announced the deal a few weeks ago. Since, White, Ngannou, and even Jon Jones have been going back and forth on social media about accusations of being scared versus taking professional risks. I think this is just getting lost in the sour grapes of the UFC since, no matter how you look at it, they had a sitting champion walk away from the promotion for what they felt was in their best interest.
I know it’s cool to look at the UFC as the big evil corporate monopoly in MMA, and they are in a lot of ways. However, it is because of their growth the sport of MMA is now big enough that deals as this can happen for Ngannou. So, even in losing him the UFC can still take some credit for getting investors like those involved with the PFL to gamble on Ngannou, but without him fighting and producing numbers, it’s still a gamble.
After last week’s UFC Fight Night at the APEX, White gave his thoughts on the deal and while you could still see he had sour grapes on losing a champ, he did make some interesting points. The PFL has thrown a lot of money at Ngannou and his potential opponents but nothing is booked as of yet. Ngannou is going more than 18 months without competing now, when he returns it will be in a boxing match this year. With who? No one knows, because Tyson Fury’s name is being thrown around by the UFC as another possible Mayweather/McGregor booking, and Anthony Joshua has already said he’s not interested in gimmick boxing matchups. So, if they keep letting Ngannou sit this could just burn money for them if Ngannou doesn’t fight soon…