After signing a lucrative deal with PFL, Francis Ngannou detailed the negotiations he had with Bellator, ONE Championship, and BKFC over the last few months. During his time on The MMA Hour, Ngannou detailed the efforts to sign him.
The former UFC heavyweight champion was seen as the biggest free agent in the sport after his formal release from the promotion last January. The likeliest contender to sign Ngannou was Bellator, who is seen as the UFC’s biggest competitor.
Last March, Bellator president Scott Coker was optimistic about bringing Ngannou on board. Coker’s deal would have permitted Ngannou to also pursue a boxing career while under contract. Contrary to Coker’s reports, Ngannou said Bellator never came to him with a formal offer, let alone negotiated with the organization.
“They said, ‘At this stage we’re not in the position to initiate an offer. We wish you good luck,’”
Though Ngannou complimented Coker and Bellator as being professional and courteous during their talks, he could not say the same for BKFC. The brutish promotion has been active in recruiting former MMA fighters but failed to interest Ngannou.
BKFC president David Feldman confirmed the promotion’s interest in Ngannou last April. Feldman would concede shortly after, saying Ngannou was asking for too much money. Ngannou responded by saying that BKFC never reached out to him, and the promotion’s own uneven finances led them to assume he’d price himself out. Ngannou said of Feldman, This guy is a joke”
“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.
Francis Ngannou wrapped up the PFL deal before speaking to ONE
A strong contender for Ngannou’s services was the Signaporian-based ONE Championship. CEO Chatri Sityodtong had a face-to-face meeting with Ngannou in Los Angeles, giving him a $20 million contract for two fights. ONE Championship actually has superior global reach than the UFC, but has only just started to expand its business in the United States.
As Sityodtong gave Ngannou a laundry list of what the organization could provide him, Ngannou was overwhelmed with information. Though he came well prepared to explain ONE’s worldwide reach and influence in Asia, he was unsuccessful to turn Ngannou away from accepting PFL’s offer.
“I had to drink like three or four cups of coffee, listening to all those statistics [about] 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…it was a hell of a performance”