“No Beef with PFL,” But UFC’s Dana White Says Ngannou Deal “Makes No Sense to Me”

Dana White, UFC Vegas 67
Dana White, UFC Vegas 67 post-fight Credit: Eddie Law/Cageside Press

UFC President Dana White is aware of at least some of what is going on with rival promotion PFL these days, including the signing of lineal UFC heavyweight champ Francis Ngannou.

White just doesn’t understand it.

“Based on what I know about the deal, which is not much, it makes no sense to me,” White told the assembled media at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas following UFC Vegas 73 on Saturday, asked about Ngannou signing with the Professional Fighters League. “You’re going to pay a 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.”

Rest assured, this in part is White doing damage control, and that’s very much his job. As White would later admit, the UFC, and primarily Chief Business Officer Hunter Campbell, tried very hard to retain Ngannou’s services, wining and dining him on numerous occasions.

And so White, ever the promoter, went back to the narrative that Ngannou isn’t willing to take risks (despite taking a mighty gamble, truth be told, walking away from the UFC). Though the UFC exec was careful to note that he wasn’t calling Ngannou scared.

“The day that we released him, I knew exactly what was going to happen. Francis wants to take zero risk. He doesn’t want to take any chances. He obviously didn’t want to take a chance against Jon Jones,” said White, who had years to make a fight between Jones and Ngannou happen. “After what happened with Ciryl Gane, I don’t blame him. I think the outcome would have been exactly the same, and I’m sure most of you do, and I think Francis does too.”

Ngannou defeated Gane by decision when the pair faced off at UFC 270 last year.

“The media makes it sound like I’m saying he’s afraid of him [Jones],” added White. “I don’t think he’s afraid of anybody. It’s just the fact that he doesn’t want to take any risk.”

White reiterated that the PFL deal, from his standpoint, does not make sense. To be fair to White, many have questioned whether the PFL will come out the winner in the end, having reportedly paid in the high seven figures, per fight, to Ngannou — plus agreeing to a $2 million fee for his first opponent. Ngannou is also expected to compete in boxing before he steps into the PFL cage.

“PFL is going to pay this guy to train for a boxing match that might not even happen, that they might not even be involved in. How does that make any sense? It doesn’t make any sense to me,” stated White. “Anthony Joshua called it a gimmick fight this week.”

White suggested that one of the big problems with boxing currently is gimmicky fights, adding those simply are not what the UFC does. “I put on fights with the best fighters in the world, and fights that people want to see.”

suggesting that Ngannou could have got a deal done with the UFC, White added “Francis thinks he’s in a position where he thinks he’s got some Conor McGregor-Mayweather fight on his hands. Which he does not. That fight was a once in a lifetime deal.” Mayweather-McGregor was a fight White admits he didn’t want, but the fans did, and it was the right time and the right place. “So we got it done. MMA guys verus 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.”

Time will tell on that part. Thus far, Jake Paul has made a tidy profit boxing “MMA guys” like Ben Askren, Tyron Woodley, Anderson Silva, and soon, Nate Diaz — all former UFC stars. None have defeated Paul as of yet, which isn’t a good look for the UFC among casual fans, though anyone paying attention recognizes that Paul is boxing vastly older, considerably undersized opponents at the tail end of their careers. And he still almost lost to Silva.

“I have no beef with the PFL. These guys have always been super professional, and never talked any smack,” White said of the league, which was born out of the WSOF in 2018. “You know me, if I don’t like you, whether it’s [Oscar] De La Hoya or another organization or whatever it is, I don’t hold back. I’ll let you have it. But what they’re doing makes no sense to me.”

“Their business strategy. I’m hearing 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. They know what they’re doing. I don’t know who in the hell would give them 280 million dollars, because I’m hearing they’re buying Bellator, right? You’re an organization that’s burning cash, have no ratings and sell no tickets, and you’re going to raise 280 million to buy a company that’s burning cash, sells no tickets and does no ratings? Sounds absolutely genius to me.”

The Bellator rumors have been making the rounds for a while now. Promotion officials did not respond to a request for comment by Cageside Press previously. Bellator did find success in the ratings earlier this year, however, topping one million viewers on broadcast network CBS for the retirement fight of Fedor Emelianenko.

The UFC pulled a similar number for UFC Charlotte last week.

“I know how this story ends. I get what Francis is doing,” White continued. “I wish the PFL all the luck in the world, I wish him all the luck in the world, it’s just not what we do here.”

Later, White would note that Ngannou is “not even fighting their champions. He wants to box. He’s signed with this company, and he’s not even willing to fight their champions right now.”

No opponent has been announced for Francis Ngannou by the PFL thus far.


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