‘Old PR move?’ – ONE Championship makes questionable claim on Francis Ngannou negotiations

Francis Ngannou is no longer on ONE Championship's radar, according to its CEO Chatri Sityodtong.

By: Milan Ordoñez | 5 months ago
‘Old PR move?’ – ONE Championship makes questionable claim on Francis Ngannou negotiations
Is it the really the end of the road between Francis Ngannou and ONE Championship? IMAGO

When Francis Ngannou left the UFC in early 2023, offers reportedly started pouring in. One of those supposedly interested is Singapore-based promotion ONE Championship. ONE, in fact, claimed to be capable of giving “The Predator” the “biggest offer on the table” while also accommodating Ngannou’s desire to compete in boxing

But less than a week later, negotiations apparently didn’t go far. Seemingly trying to shift the narrative, CEO Chatri Sityodtong claimed it’s ONE’s decision to no longer continue negotiations with Ngannou. 

ONE Championships claims they ended talks with Francis Ngannou

In a text message sent to South China Morning Post, Sityodtong revealed an unsuccessful three-hour sitdown with Ngannou, prompting him to pull the plug on negotiations. 

“ONE has decided to withdraw from the process of bidding for Francis Ngannou’s services,” Sityodtong wrote. “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.”

Without giving any specifics, Sityodtong simply stated that the fruitless outcome was due to the failure of seeing eye-to-eye. 

“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.”

Francis Ngannou gives his side of the story

MMA insider Ariel Helwani apparently got to speak with Ngannou to get his side of the story. From what he gathered, the former UFC heavyweight champion is also in talks with another organization that’s willing to accommodate the boxing side of things. 

“Francis is very close to signing a new deal with another promotion,” Helwani said on the MMA Hour on Monday. “According to Francis, he was very upfront about this. They left the meeting on good terms, but both of them came to an understanding that because he had already verbally committed to someone, more than likely he’s not going to want (to sign with ONE). 

“This is the MMA side of his deal. There’s an MMA component and a boxing component. And I think he did the old PR move where you get ahead of it and you tell your side of the story and you make it seem like you’re walking away, as opposed to maybe you couldn’t come to terms ‘cause he had a deal or he wanted something else, etc, etc.”

As for Chatri, who also appeared on the show days prior, Helwani had this to say. 

“He wants everyone to know, like, ‘Hey, we’re in control here. We’re not offering this guy a deal, it’s not that he’s choosing someone else.’”

“I think Chatri wanted to do a deal with Francis, is my understanding. Came to the realization that he can’t do a deal with him because (Francis) had this verbal commitment. He’s very close. Could even be signed this week, he tells me.” 

Francis Ngannou’s other option

Another deal that reportedly fell through for Ngannou was one with BKFC, who couldn’t meet Ngannou’s asking price. According to president David Feldman, the amount being asked for was “unrealistic.” 

That leaves PFL as the main option for Ngannou at this point. As of last month, PFL president Ray Sefo has been optimistic with their discussions. 

“Obviously, there’s a few other things he also wants to pursue which is boxing and he knows where we stand with it too so, you know, it’s all positive should I say, right?” Sefo said in an early April interview

“To be quite honest, I would love to have him in the season. But again, it’s no surprise he’s a pay-per-view kind of guy, and so I think that’s kind of up to him where we go with that. 

“But listen, if he decides that he wants to be in the season, I’d love to have him in the season.”

Ngannou (17-3) decided to leave the UFC after failing to come to terms with a contract. Throughout this whole saga, he’s attested that he is after freedom more than the money. He last fought at UFC 270 in January 2022 where he defended the title against Ciryl Gane via decision.

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About the author
Milan Ordoñez
Milan Ordoñez

Milan Ordoñez has been covering combat sports since 2012 and has been part of the Bloody Elbow staff since 2016. He’s also competed in amateur mixed martial arts and submission grappling tournaments.

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