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  • Tarrian Rodgers

Former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou signs exclusive deal with PFL

Former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou (17-3), 36 is taking his talents to the PFL as he signed a multi-fight deal on Tuesday. Ngannou is set to make his debut in 2024 against an opponent later to be named.

For Ngannou there are many perks to his new deal one perk is he has been given the permission to box. Over the past two years, Ngannou has expressed interest and been linked to potential boxing matches against the likes of Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder. Ngannou even stood in the ring with Fury announcing a future bout but nothing has materialized as of yet. Perhaps the biggest perk of this new deal is that Ngannou will become chairman of P.F.L. Africa, an expansion initiative to produce events on the continent, and will serve on the company’s advisory board to represent fighter interests.

"The PFL is excited to announce its groundbreaking strategic partnership with Francis Ngannou, the greatest heavyweight fighter in the world," PFL CEO Peter Murray said in a statement. "Ngannou will anchor the PFL's star-studded PPV Super Fight Division, serve on PFL's Global Athlete Advisory Board and will be a Chairman and equity owner in PFL Africa."

Ngannou, a Cameroon born fighter who now fights outside of Las Vegas has always mentioned the importance of developing African talent in combat sports. Under Ngannou’s now guidance PFL intends to launch multiple leagues across different continents in the coming years, with PFL Africa expected as soon as 2025. It launched PFL Europe earlier this year.

Ngannou earlier this year was famously at odds with UFC president Dana White. White claimed he offered Ngannou a contract that would make him the highest paid fighter in UFC history and after Ngannou denied White said Ngannou would never fight for the brand again. Ngannou made it clear in numerous interviews that discussions with the UFC broke down primarily over non-financial issues, including length of contract and universal health care for athletes.

"You have to give a ton of credit to Francis," said Marquel Martin, Ngannou's former manager who still serves in an advisory role and runs a brand management company. "Most fighters couldn't go through what he went through this past year. He understands his value and has been extremely patient to get to this point. Now, not only is he the best heavyweight in the world, but he has a deal that is unmatched and will set him up for life."

Ngannou has had a true rags to riches story. He grew up in poverty and emigrated himself to Paris where he took up mixed martial arts as a way to change his life. He fought professionally for two years before breaking into the UFC.

Ngannou hasn't fought since he defended his heavyweight title against Ciryl Gane in January 2022. He was expected to sit out the rest of 2022 due to a knee injury. Among the PFL's current heavyweight roster, Ngannou's most likely opponents would include a name like former PFL champion Bruno Cappelozza. The PFL could also pursue another free agent before mid-2024.

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