Lies, performance and professionalism: Francis Ngannou details BKFC, ONE FC and Bellator’s pursuit of him

Lies, performance and professionalism: Francis Ngannou details BKFC, ONE FC and Bellator’s pursuit of him

The Francis Ngannou sweepstakes came to a close Tuesday as it was announced that he signed a historic and lucrative contract with the PFL, officially ending a five-month free agency period in which the former UFC heavyweight champion also garnered interest from Bellator, ONE Championship and Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship.

For months we heard from executives of those promotions about their pursuit of Ngannou, who remained largely silent – until now.

During an interview with Ariel Helwani on “The MMA Hour,” Ngannou described what it was like dealing with each of those situations.

Bellator: ‘Very professional’

Bellator president Scott Coker.

The claim: Back in March, Bellator president Scott Coker told MMA Junkie that promotion officials were having discussions with Ngannou and his team with the hope of working out a deal in which he would compete in MMA for Bellator and boxing for Showtime. At the time, Coker believed it was “a perfect fit” and put the odds of a deal coming to fruition at “50-50.”

Ngannou’s side: Ngannou confirmed that he was in talks with Bellator, which he described as “very professional,” but said he never received a formal offer.

“They said, ‘At this stage we’re not in the position to initiate an offer. We wish you good luck,’” said Ngannou, who didn’t specify when talks ceased. “So they never made an offer, and they never made anything of it. We never had a negotiation.”

ONE Championship: ‘Bro, this is too much’

ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong.

The claim: ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong said on May 1 that the promotion “decided to withdraw from the process of bidding for Francis Ngannou’s services” after some “careful reflection.”

According to Sityodtong, he and Ngannou met for three hours in Los Angeles the day before, on April 30. There, he made Ngannou an offer of $20 million for two fights.

Ngannou’s side: Ngannou said he initially spoke with Sityodtong on the phone and described him as being pushy, even though he told Sityodtong he got the best offer from PFL.

Ngannou said he felt right away that Sityodtong “was just performing.”

“He was like, ‘Oh, I can fly you to Singapore, I can fly to Cameroon, I can this.’ He was all in,” Ngannou said. “I’m like, ‘Bro, this is too much. I cannot handle this.’”

Ngannou confirmed that the three-hour meeting did happen in L.A., which he said he agreed to out of respect (and they were there at the same time anyway). Ngannou said he told Sityodtong upfront that he was favoring PFL, which turned the conversation quickly into Sityodtong hyping up ONE.

That’s why Ngannou was surprised to hear about a $20 million offer.

“I didn’t ask him anything. I listened to this guy talk,” Ngannou said.

Ngannou described how Sityodtong shared screenshots of data about ONE’s massive global reach that Ngannou questioned.

“I was like, ‘Damn, woah.’ He had a lot of those (screenshots),” Ngannou said. “I’m like, ‘Hold on a minute.’ Anyway, that was the whole meeting.”

He continued, “I had to drink like three or four cups of coffee, listening to all those statistics how ONE FC is in Asia, Asia is 4.6 billion people, they’re gonna do this, the data shows that. He was showing me how ONE FC is gonna explode, and (telling me) I’m gonna be like Nelson Mandela.

“Hey, bro, it was a hell of a performance. I applaud Chatri for his performance.”

BKFC: ‘This guy is just a joke’

BKFC president David Feldman at BKFC 42,

The claim: The moment news broke of Ngannou’s free agency, BKFC president David Feldman was quick to announce that the promotion would be “very interested in signing Francis Ngannou and would very much like to have him compete in the stacked BKFC heavyweight division.”

On April 4 during a news conference, Feldman told reporters that Ngannou is “somebody we’ve certainly reached out to” and went on to explain that Ngannou was asking for “unrealistic money” that BKFC wasn’t willing to pay.

Ngannou’s side: Ngannou said Feldman “never even reached out” and that neither he nor any member of his management team ever spoke with Feldman or anyone else from BKFC.

“I just think he assumed that I’m so expensive,” Ngannou said. “Obviously because if he had to take a loan of his house to put on his show (BKFC 41), then I think he assumed that loan couldn’t pay me. I never spoke to him. My team never spoke to him. And then when I saw his comments, I was like, ‘Where is this guy coming from?’ …

“That’s why I didn’t even talk about it. I’m like, ‘This guy is just a joke.’”

Ngannou makes out in the end

Francis Ngannou says he’ll be fine financially after signing with the PFL. 💰

Read more:

— MMA Junkie (@MMAJunkie) May 16, 2023

In the end, Ngannou received what he wanted from the PFL: a deal that will allow him to pursue boxing, while also receiving PFL equity and a leadership role within the promotion as the chairman of PFL Africa.

He also says he negotiated an undisclosed minimum purse for his fights that he’s happy with, as well as a minimum of $2 million for his opponents, this in addition to Ngannou earning half the pay-per-view profits competing in the “Super Fight Division” and receiving the flexibility to have his own in-cage sponsors. Ngannou also will serve on the PFL advisory board to represent fighter interests.

Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.