ONE Championship Passes on Free Agent Francis Ngannou: Sityodtong

Francis Ngannou, UFC
Francis Ngannou, UFC 270 weigh-in Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

After announcing several weeks back that he had narrowed down his options in MMA to the PFL and ONE Championship, Francis Ngannou has seen the latter drop out of the race.

Ngannou (17-3) vacated the UFC heavyweight championship earlier this year and made his exit from the promotion after contract negotiations failed. Among the sticking points were the opportunity to pursue a high-profile boxing match, and ideas such as fighter representation within the promotion.

“The Predator” instantly became the most high-profile combat sports free agent on the market, with suitors including Bellator MMA, ONE Championship, and the PFL lining up. Ngannou then narrowed the field down to the latter two promotions — which is down to just one, per ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong.

A meeting between the ONE exec and Ngannou had been hyped in recent days, with the meeting taking place on Sunday. However, Sityodtong revealed to the South China Morning Post that ONE had opted to drop out of the running for the heavyweight’s services.

“I met with Francis yesterday for almost three hours,” Sityodtong told the outlet. “ONE has decided to withdraw from the process of bidding for Francis Ngannou’s services. After careful reflection, we decided not to submit our final offer. Francis is a good guy and a good champion. I wish him continued success and happiness.”

Sityodtong would add that “At the end of the day, I didn’t feel Francis and I were fully aligned on non-financial matters. It is nothing personal. It is just a lack of alignment.”

The head of ONE Championship, the sport’s largest player in Asia, did not clarify which non-financial matters were the sticking point. Following his failed negotiations with the UFC, Ngannou revealed that health insurance for fighters, a representative at board meetings, and sponsorships were among the sticking points with his old employer.