Could a UFC – PFL crossover ever happen with help from ESPN?

PFL UFC Jon Jones Francis Ngannou
2023 PFL 5: Atlanta at the OTE Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, Saturday, June 17, 2023. (Cooper Neill / PFL)

This past weekend, PFL 5 went down and the heavyweights and women’s featherweights took the stage as fighters looked to punch their tickets to the playoffs. While it was a night full of action, it’s something that took place outside the cage that stole headlines.

Newly signed PFL heavyweight and former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou (17-3) was in attendance. Current UFC heavyweight champion and P4P king Jon Jones (27-1, 1 NC) was cornering Maurice Greene who fought in the main event of the evening.

After the bout was over, Ngannou made his way over to where he could face off with Jon Jones. The two men had an interaction that was filmed by many and Ngannou posted the interaction between the two men on his Twitter page.

Both men showed the other a good amount of respect during the interaction. However, neither man would back down either. The current UFC champion told Ngannou to his face that he didn’t want any smoke with him while calling himself the one true king. Ngannou fired back saying that while Jones might be a king, he’s not the true heavyweight king.

Could the UFC and PFL ever do a superfight?

Ngannou was the UFC heavyweight champion back in January, but after him and the promotion failed to agree to terms on a new deal, he left ultimately signing with the PFL. Jones in return fought Ciryl Gane for the vacant heavyweight title and submitted him quickly in the first round to become heavyweight champion.

For years, this is the fight that everyone wanted, but it never came together. While Ngannou was ready in the UFC, Jones was focused on bulking up for his move to heavyweight. When Jones was ready, Ngannou was recovering from a bad knee injury that took him to the expiration date of his contact.

Things never lined up for the true matchup to see who the best heavyweight in the world is. Right now, the UFC is tracking towards Jones fighting at MSG in November. Ngannou revealed that he would likely be making his PFL debut in early 2024. Jones has hinted that he would retire after the MSG fight and the only fight he’d come back for is Ngannou.

So, could there ever be a situation where we could see a one-off co-promotional bout? ESPN is the current home of the UFC and the PFL. You have to imagine that they’d love to see it because of the revenue it would generate for them and both brands.

However, I can’t see the UFC ever doing it. Dana White has been firm that they do not do co-promotions and they honestly don’t have to. While he’s been open to having Tyson Fury come over to the octagon to face Jon Jones and he let Conor McGregor box Floyd Mayweather, he’s never seemed interested in co-promoting with another MMA promotion.

Considering the fact that he also doesn’t have the best relationship with Ngannou, I can’t see him giving in and allowing Ngannou that kind of platform again with the UFC. However, we live in a crazy world and perhaps ESPN could do something about it. I’d say the odds are slim-to-none, but in this world, never say never.