While he entered 2022 with an uncertain future as he headed towards the final bout on his deal, a successful title defense against Ciryl Gane at UFC 270 and a subsequent 11 months under contract through the champions clause hasn’t helped clear anything up.
At the start of another new year, “The Predator” still sits in limbo, and this time, he seemingly does so as a free agent. Last month, a report noted that Ngannou’s contract likely reached its five-year expiration date sometime in December, meaning he can speak to other promotions.
That revelation certainly enhanced talk about a possible switch to the Professional Fighters League, discussion surrounding which began when the heavyweight champ’s mother was pictured wearing a PFL shirt.
Helwani Dismisses Ngannou/PFL Talks
During the Q&A segment of the most recent episode of The MMA Hour, Canadian journalist Ariel Helwani was asked if there’s anything concrete behind talk of Ngannou possibly swapping the Octagon for the PFL SmartCage, which currently houses former UFC fighters like Thiago Santos and Shane Burgos, as well as YouTuber-turned-boxer Jake Paul.
While Helwani noted that nothing has been agreed in terms of a new deal between Ngannou and the UFC, he insisted that there’s currently no indication of the Cameroon native pursuing a PFL move.
“No, Francis, as of right this moment, isn’t going to the PFL,” Helwani said. “I don’t know why his mother was wearing a shirt with the PFL logo on it. The story is still evolving. I still believe at the end of the day he goes back to the UFC, in large part because he’s not represented by CAA, and that was a big stumbling block. CAA, Endeavor, they’re not the best of friends. But as of right this moment, there’s no deal in place for him to re-sign, and there’s no deal in place for him to fight on March 4.”
Nicksick Assesses Likelihood Of Ngannou/Jones
As well as Helwani’s downplaying of any link between Ngannou and the PFL, another update has also been released, this time from the heavyweight champ’s coach. During a recent interview with MMA Fighting’s Mike Heck, Eric Nicksick provided news on his man in terms of fitness, as well as a possible return opponent and timeframe.
In terms of the health of Ngannou, who spent the majority of 2022 recovering following major knee surgery, Nicksick revealed that “The Predator” looked fantastic in sparring prior to returning home to Cameroon for the holidays.
“Before he left (to Cameroon), we sparred… before he left for Christmas. And I tell you what Mike, he looked amazing, absolutely amazing,” Nicksick said. “I was so happy and elated to see how his energy felt… The old Francis is back. I’m very optimistic about everything… He’s ready to rock and roll.”
After a possible bout between heavyweight newcomer Jon Jones and former champion Stipe Miocic failed to come to fruition last year, talk has turned to “Bones” making his first heavyweight venture against Ngannou in March.
During his interaction with Heck, Nicksick reiterated that the UFC is targeting the bout for UFC 285 on March 4. However, in terms of the likelihood of it coming together, the Xtreme Couture coach appeared unsure.
“Then, obviously, they still haven’t announced anything yet with his contract. 50/50 for me. I’m hoping, pleasantly pulling for this thing. Fingers crossed we get this deal done. If it’s not March, maybe it’s April or May,” Nicksick continued. “But I do know they’re shooting for March and Jon Jones is the opponent… If they tell me, ‘Hey, we’re fighting March 4,’ we’ll have our guy ready, that’s for sure.”
What do you make of the latest updates on Francis Ngannou’s status?
Please provide transcription credit with a link to this article if you use any of these quotes.