There is risk for the PFL in the Francis Ngannou deal

PFL UFC Francis Ngannou
Jan 22, 2022; Anaheim, California, USA; Francis Ngannou (red gloves) before his fight against Ciryl Gane during UFC 270 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday the day started with the MMA world being lit on fire by the news that Francis Ngannou (17-3) had agreed to a massive deal with the PFL. After months of free agency, the drama was over as Ngannou announced his exclusive MMA home with the PFL.

The contract is a massive win for Ngannou who walked away from the UFC as the reigning heavyweight champion of the world. Ngannou set out into free agency looking for a deal that worked for him, the promotion, and his fellow fighters. He really got everything he wanted in this deal.

Included in this deal for Ngannou is a high seven-figure guaranteed payday for his next MMA bout with the promotion. While the deal locks him to PFL exclusively for MMA, he has the freedom to pursue boxing which he plans to do next. He has been named chairman of PFL Africa as the promotion looks to expand into Ngannou’s home continent.

Ngannou will be a member of the PFL’s Global Advisory Board. One additional wrinkle into the deal is that the promotion is guaranteeing a $2 million payday for whoever Ngannou fights first inside the cage. This is massive because the promotion has built their entire brand around a season where the grand prize is one million. Ngannou’s opponent is guaranteed double that just for fighting him.

PFL is taking a chance

People can argue day and night on who the best heavyweight in the world is. Francis Ngannou was on top of the mountain as UFC heavyweight champion and never lost. So, there are going to be plenty of people in the Ngannou camp for this question. However, for as many Ngannou supporters, there are going to be Jon Jones supporters.

Jones is considered the greatest fighter of all time regardless of division. He ran through Ciryl Gane to win the vacant UFC heavyweight title upon Ngannou’s departure. Nevertheless, there’s no doubting that Ngannou is one of the two best heavyweights in the world.

Signing Ngannou is a massive win for the PFL, but there is a big risk involved. One risk the promotion is facing is Ngannou’s relevancy. Ngannou was on top of the world as heavyweight champion. However, his last fight came in January of 2022. A knee injury kept him out all of last year.

He’s been very vocal that his next bout will be in boxing if not his next two bouts. PFL stated that Ngannou will not fight in MMA until mid-2024. So, we are talking about over a year from now before we even see Ngannou inside the cage for the promotion.

Let’s say his venture into boxing goes horribly for him. That could damage his reputation and his image. Combine that with a two and a half year layoff, and you run the risk of there just not being that great amount of interest. While Ngannou has the ideal look of a heavyweight champ, his lack of promotion didn’t make him the biggest draw to begin with.

So if you ask me, yesterday was a win for all parties involved. The biggest winner is Ngannou who got everything he wanted and more. PFL also wins because they secured the services of Ngannou. However, the promotion is also taking a risk because of the delayed debut and all the risks of the layoff, Ngannou’s age, and overall relevancy as time goes on.