Cormier: Francis Ngannou’s free agency makes MMA ‘a real sport’

UFC commentator, and former champion, Daniel Cormier shared his delight for Francis Ngannou's PFL contract and what it means for MMA.

By: Tim Bissell | 3 weeks ago
Cormier: Francis Ngannou’s free agency makes MMA ‘a real sport’
Francis Ngannou and his new PFL contract. IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

Francis Ngannou officially signed for PFL

This week former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou announced he had signed with PFL on a deal unlike any that has ever been seen in combat sports. Ngannou will reportedly be one of the highest paid MMA fighters on the planet and will also be able to secure his own in-cage sponsorships and pursue boxing bouts without any interference from PFL.

There have been many stunned reactions to this news, with plenty of fighters saluting Ngannou for securing ‘the bag’ (despite many fans thinking Ngannou fumbled said bag).

Count former UFC champion Daniel Cormier in the camp of those who think Ngannou got a great deal with his new promoter.

UFC commentator thrilled for Ngannou

On his DC & RC show Cormier gushed about the deal. Furthermore, Cormier shared how impressed he was that Ngannou was able to secure the conditions needed to reach this kind of a agreement with a promoter other than the UFC.\

“I want to make sure that we communicate to the world that this is not a normal situation,” explained Cormier. “We’re talking about the heavyweight champion. You always knew that if anyone was going to set the standard for what is out there as a free agent, it was gonna be Francis [Ngannou].

“The moment he announced that he was gonna be moving on, you knew that the standard and the bar was going to be set by Francis. Any athlete can’t just be like, ‘I’m going to go and do something different because Francis Ngannou did something different.’ They have to have leverage. Ultimately, that leverage that Francis had was winning that fight in Anaheim and beating Ciryl Gane and walking away with the championship. He used it to try to accomplish something good.”

Cormier also shared his delight at Ngannou’s contract reportedly guaranteeing that his opponents would have a $2 million payday.

“Francis has a stipulation in his contract, at least it is thought to be, that even his opponents are getting a bump in pay. It’s not just Francis getting money. The guy that gets to fight Francis gets a payday that may even equal out to a million dollars. There are guys that would never make a million dollars, but if you step in there with Francis Ngannou, you can make a million dollars. There are very few people that can move the needle like that for themselves and their opponents.”

Cormier discusses Ngannou’s step down in competition

Though he was clearly happy for what Ngannou’s contract means for ‘The Predator’ and the sport as a whole, Cormier did say that he felt Ngannou had taken a step down in competition by signing with the PFL.

“There is no organization that has talent on par with the UFC as a whole,” opined Cormier. “But there are outliers out there in the world where guys can really compete. You’re seeing that now in Bellator. You saw it in Strikeforce because when all the Strikeforce people came, they became champions. Myself, Ronda Rousey, Luke Rockhold, Robbie Lawler, all these fighters came over and became champions. So, we always could compete.

Lineal UFC heavyweight champ Francis Ngannou celebrates his win.
Francis Ngannou at UFC 270, where he beat Ciryl Gane.

“I think they have these outliers. So, to believe Francis Ngannou is going to fight lesser competition is going to be very difficult to prove because it is tough out there. There are fighters out there that can challenge you out in the world of mixed martial arts. As a whole, UFC is where it’s supposed to be, but Francis Ngannou has set a new standard. It kind of feels like go play less golf for more money.”

Cormier then congratulated Ngannou on his contract and said he felt the Cameroonian’s free agency may have ushered in a new era for the sport.

“Congratulations to the former UFC heavyweight champion on really setting a new standard for what is out there in the free-agent market. It feels real after this one. It makes MMA feel real after seeing what Francis Ngannou just did.”

Ngannou’s PFL debut

Ngannou is expected to debut for the PFL sometime in 2024. He is not expected to compete in any of PFL’s million dollar tournament formats. Instead, he will be competing in specially booked ‘super fights’ on pay-per-view.

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About the author
Tim Bissell
Tim Bissell

Tim Bissell is a writer, editor and deputy site manager for Bloody Elbow. He has covered combat sports since 2015. Tim covers news and events and has also written longform and investigative pieces. Among Tim's specialties are the intersections between crime and combat sports. Tim has also covered head trauma, concussions and CTE in great detail.

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