June 2, 2023

The 36-year-old former UFC heavyweight champion will battle solely for the Professional Fighters League below a brand new contract.

Former UFC star Francis Ngannou has signed with the Skilled Fighters League (PFL) to proceed his reign as one of many prime heavyweights in combined martial arts (MMA).

The 36-year-old was nonetheless UFC Heavyweight Champion when contract talks with the highest promotion fell by means of, with the Cameroonian fighter saying his medical health insurance and private sponsorship claims had been denied. UFC President Dana White stripped Ngannou of his belt in January.

The phrases of Ngannou’s take care of the PFL haven’t been introduced, however a press release on Tuesday mentioned he would battle solely within the franchise’s superfight division on pay-per-view. It’s anticipated to debut in mid-2024.

Ngannou (17-3) will even have a management position on the PFL’s international advisory board and also will be chairman and shareholder of PFL Africa.

“I consider within the PFL’s ‘fighter first’ tradition and international imaginative and prescient, together with the event of the game in Africa,” Ngannou mentioned in a press release.

“That mentioned, I’m additionally proud to announce that I can be Chairman of PFL Africa, which would be the premier MMA group on the continent, offering nice African fighters the chance to compete on a world platform,” added Ngannou, the primary African. pure born UFC heavyweight champion.

PFL CEO Peter Murray mentioned talks with Ngannou started when “he was not burdened” and the fighter was anticipated to play a key position within the firm’s deliberate international enlargement.

Ngannou needs to field too, and the PFL will not stand in his means, Murray informed The Related Press.

“We help Francis who needs to take up boxing,” he mentioned.

Ngannou is the primary UFC champion of African descent. [File: Greg Baker/AFP]

It has been an extended journey for the quiet Ngannou, who began working in a sand pit on the age of 12 after which, on the age of 20, launched into an extended and life-threatening journey from Cameroon to France – a journey he as soon as known as “hell” .

Ngannou crossed the Sahara Desert and spent a yr in Morocco earlier than reaching Spain through the Mediterranean. Upon his arrival in Spain, he was detained for unlawful entry and spent two months in custody earlier than regaining his freedom and at last reaching France.

In Paris, he was homeless till he discovered a health heart to sleep in and begin exercising. In 2013, he made his debut in knowledgeable battle, and two years later he signed a contract with the UFC.

“Completely on time”

Whereas the PFL has a novel MMA competitors format that features the common season, postseason, and championship, Ngannou will solely battle within the scheduled PPV division, which options different stars resembling Kayla Harrison and Jake Paul.

“It is a new mannequin and this can be a transformational deal,” Murray mentioned. It isn’t nearly signing an athlete. It is a strategic partnership. Francis has each means not solely as an elite MMA fighter but in addition as a enterprise man and we’re delighted to be doing enterprise with him.”

Ngannou posted a teaser video on social media that he deliberate to make a giant announcement on Could sixteenth. On Monday, he posted a photograph of himself with the caption: “Wanting in direction of a vibrant future on the horizon.”

Ngannou has bounced again from consecutive losses within the UFC and has gained six fights in a row, together with a championship battle in opposition to Stipe Miocic and one profitable title protection.

He has not fought since defeating Cyril Gein through unanimous choice at UFC 270 in January 2022.

His relationship with the UFC soured to the purpose the place White promised that Ngannou would “by no means be within the UFC once more”.

“I by no means say by no means, however I will wager you by no means on that. We tried,” White mentioned.

Ngannou was in talks with ONE Championship, however these talks ended shortly earlier than the Singapore league made its US debut final week in Denver.

The PFL made a splash by signing outdoors stars like Paul and Olympian boxer Claressa Shields. Final week, the PFL signed French fighter and former world kickboxing champion Cédric Dumbe to a contract.

However not one of the signings had been as robust as Ngannou.

That is the number one signing this firm has ever made in MMA,” Murray mentioned. It is good on time. We at the moment are targeted on the following part of our development and launching our pay-per-view enterprise and increasing internationally with regional leagues.”

Murray mentioned particulars of Paul’s PFL debut can be introduced after his battle with Nate Diaz in August, and that Harrison will certainly battle in 2023.

“I can guarantee you that fighters who wish to get out of their contracts are in search of the PFL because the world’s premier area with among the finest expertise on the planet,” Murray mentioned.

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