Dana White says Francis Ngannou’s PFL signing makes no sense: ‘I know how this story ends’
LAS VEGAS – UFC president Dana White had a lot to say Saturday following UFC Fight Night 224 as he publicly reacted for the first time to news of Francis Ngannou signing with PFL.
While White did not specifically address the finances involved with the deal, as he cited lack of knowledge, the UFC president questioned how the move makes sense for Ngannou, the promotion, and its viewers.
“Based on what I know about the deal, which is not much, it makes no sense to me,” White said. “You’re going to pay the guy not to fight for a year and it’s already been like 18 months. He’s fought three times in the last three years. It’s just not what we do here. It’s not what we do. The day that we released him, I knew exactly what was going to happen.”
Ngannou departed the UFC in January following the conclusion of his promotional agreement and spent recent months meeting with a handful of combat sports promotions including PFL, Bellator, and ONE Championship.
In the weeks that followed Ngannou’s departure and the vacant title fight between Jon Jones and Ciryl Gane at UFC 285 on March 4, White accused Ngannou of not wanting to fight Jones because of what he deemed the bout’s likely outcome.
Saturday, White reiterated these comments in reference to the PFL deal, while also attempting to clarify them.
“I don’t think that he’s afraid of anybody,” White said. “It’s just the fact that he doesn’t want to take any risk. PFL is going to pay this guy to train for a boxing match that may not even happen and they may not even be involved in. How does that make any sense? It doesn’t make sense to me.”
According to reporter John Nash, details of Ngannou’s contract include that it is for two or three fights, guarantees a “high seven-figure purse” for each, gives him the right to have his own sponsors in the cage, and mandates his opponent will receive $2 million to fight him. The boxing terms of his deal are non-exclusive.
In terms of the boxing component, White cast doubt on Ngannou’s pursuit of a lucrative boxing crossover, despite an MMA vs. boxer match between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather, which he co-promoted in 2017, being one of the top-grossing combat sports fights of all time. There isn’t a comparable option, said White.
“That’s one of the big problems with boxing right now,” White said. “It’s all about these gimmicky-type fights. That’s just not what I do here. That’s just not what I do. I put on fights with the best fighters in the world and the fighters people want to see. Francis could’ve done a deal here. Hunter (Campbell) threw the kitchen sink at that guy. Hunter went to more dinners with Francis Ngannou and did everything in his power to get this fight done.
“Francis just thinks he’s in a position where he’s got some sort of Conor McGregor-Mayweather fight on his hands, which he does not. That fight was like a once-in-a-lifetime-type deal, a fight that I wasn’t very interested in. But at the end of the day, it became so big: the right guys, the right time, the right place, the fans wanted it. So we did it and we got it done. MMA guys vs. boxers doesn’t make any sense to me. But I know he thinks there’s all this money in it. I disagree. I don’t think there is.”
UFC Fight Night 224 winner Mackenzie Dern says fighting Rose Namajunas 'a priority'
UFC Fight Night 224 bonuses: Diego Ferriera's crushing KO among four $50,000 winners
White verbally scratched his head about the direction of PFL, a competing organization that has spent millions signing the likes of Francis Ngannou and Jake Paul in recent months. He also scoffed at the promotion’s potential business decisions as he discussed the circulating rumors of PFL purchasing long-time UFC competitor Bellator.
“I have no beef with the PFL,” White said. “These guys have always been super professional and never talked any smack. You know me. If I don’t like you whether it’s (Oscar) De Lay Hoya or another organization out there whoever it is, I don’t hold back. I let you have it. What they’re doing makes no sense to me, their business strategy. I’m hearing that they’re raising money right now, $280 million, $300 million, I don’t know what the number is, from the Middle East. I’ve done a lot of business in the Middle East. Those guys are sharp. I don’t know who in the hell would give them $280 million.
“Because I hear they’re buying Bellator, right? If you’re an organization that’s burning cash, have no ratings, and selling no tickets, and are going to raise $280 million to buy a company that’s burning cash, sells no tickets, and does no ratings, it sounds absolutely f*cking genius to me. I know how this story ends.”
White wished the parties involved well, but also made a departing point. He brought up Ngannou’s plans to wait until 2024 to compete under the PFL banner.
“He signs with this company and he’s not even willing to fight their champions right now,” White said. “He’s fought three times in the last three years and it’s been like 18 months since he’s fought. From what I’m hearing, he’s not going to fight for another year. … I think their last champion or maybe their current champion (Ante Delija), lost to Tybura. Then, the champion now (Bruno Cappelozza) lost to Jiri Prochazka, who isn’t even a heavyweight. Francis doesn’t want to fight these two guys now. Am I the only one who thinks this whole thing is just a bunch of bullsh*t? That’s my two cents.”
Ngannou, 36, has not competed since January 2022. Since his departure from the UFC, Ngannou has advocated to fighter treatment, policies, and pay as the reason for his departure and signing with PFL.
“It was easy,” Ngannou told DAZN. “I think it was the easiest choice made because from Day 1 that I talked to them, I understand their vision, their global vision, their vision for the sport.
To listen to White’s comments in full. Watch the video above.