Francis Ngannou, the former UFC heavyweight champion who recently signed with the PFL, he was making between $100,000 and $120,000 per fight during his final contract with the UFC before winning the heavyweight title in March 2021. Ngannou’s decision to sign with the PFL rather than re-sign with the UFC became a major story following his successful title defense against Ciryl Gane at UFC 270 in January 2022, where he won while suffering from injuries to his ACL and MCL.
Though the UFC offered Ngannou a deal that included a big fight against current champ Jon Jones, he ultimately chose the PFL in part due to the respect he felt the UFC lacked for him in his final three-plus years with the promotion. As Ngannou reflected on his time with the UFC, he felt he wasn’t treated well and was frustrated by the way he was handled.
He recalled that he had an eight-fight contract and wanted to fulfill that contract, but the UFC would not allow him to do so because they knew that upon fulfilling it, he would be free to seek other offers. Instead, Ngannou said the UFC “used some kind of dirty game there – freeze me out” and that he was left making only a few pennies per fight, not enough to make a living off of. Despite the hardship this caused him, Ngannou was eventually forced to come back and accept the contract.
The difficult situation with the UFC began after Ngannou’s fight against Junior dos Santos in June 2019. Ngannou said that one of the hardest things about that time was the pressure the UFC put on him, given the discrepancy in power between him and the organization. “They are massive,” he said.
Ngannou is now set to debut with the PFL in 2024 and is hoping to have a boxing match later this year. While money was certainly a factor in his decision to leave the UFC, it wasn’t the only one. Ultimately, Ngannou felt he deserved more respect than the UFC had given him, and he found that respect with the PFL.