Francis Ngannou had the option to sign with the UFC again but ultimately chose to sign with the Professional Fighters League (PFL) where he is a minority equity owner, is on the PFL advisory board, and serves as chairman of PFL Africa. After being an unrestricted free agent for four months, Ngannou signed the unique contract with the PFL, unlike any previously seen in MMA history. This came 16 months after his last fight in the UFC, a successful defense of the heavyweight title that he later vacated and was won by Jon Jones.
Ngannou could have been a free agent much sooner, had the UFC supplied him with fights. But after defeating Jairzinho Rozenstruik in May 2020, there was a delay in securing a fight with Jones, and they did not want to wait around for Stipe Miocic. There were rumors that Ngannou and Jones would fight, but the match failed to materialize for a variety of reasons, including Jones wanting more money to fight Ngannou, according to UFC President Dana White.
Ngannou seriously considered re-signing with the UFC before signing with the PFL. His manager believes a lot of miscommunication in the back and forth led to the dispute. He had tremendous respect for the UFC but also had to make smart business decisions to put his client in a position to succeed.
Ngannou’s former strong social media involvement in combat sports resulted in an ongoing public dispute with White. Although Martin says the UFC was always in play, his team was not going to bend backward to get Ngannou back inside the octagon. However, Martin maintains a high level of respect for White and the company and is happy that Ngannou’s free agency is resolved.
Martin is optimistic that Ngannou taking the initiative and properly gauging his worth sets an example that other combat sports athletes will follow. He believes that this deal will help change the sport and that fighters are going to get paid more from the UFC, have more opportunities, and appreciate a person like Francis, who is a gamechanger.