Mixed martial arts star Francis Ngannou is in the final week of training for his first professional boxing match that will reportedly pay him $10 million, which is 16 times more than his most recent MMA bout.
(Bloomberg) — Mixed martial arts star Francis Ngannou is in the final week of training for his first professional boxing match that will reportedly pay him $10 million, which is 16 times more than his most recent MMA bout.
Ngannou was a heavyweight champ in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the top MMA company. When his contract expired earlier this year, he signed with the upstart Professional Fighters League, which, unlike the UFC, allowed him to compete in boxing where purses can be much larger. If other UFC stars follow his path, it would continue shaking up the sport.
On Oct. 28, Ngannou will fight world heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury in Saudi Arabia. Although payouts haven’t been officially revealed, Fury has said Ngannou is set to make at least eight figures.
The tilt is another meeting between a top boxer and MMA fighter that’s drawing lots of media attention and big paydays. Conor McGregor set the stage for these kind of matchups in 2017 when the UFC star boxed and lost to Floyd Mayweather. McGregor earned $85 million, according to Forbes.
While experiencing a boom in popularity, MMA’s top fighters still can’t match the payouts of boxers. One big reason is that boxing is a much older sport with a lucrative business model in place. And while MMA fighters are under contract with a promotion or league, boxers act as their own business entities. That gives them more power when negotiating fights and advertising deals.
“Most fighters are barely able to make a living,” Ngannou said. They’re “living paycheck to paycheck.”
Ngannou, who oddsmakers see as a big underdog against Fury, was able to take part in a boxing match because of a unique contract with the PFL, which was founded by venture capitalist Donn Davis.
“I didn’t know a contract could be this great,” Ngannou said. “It’s been a while since I have had a promotion that fully supports your goals and dreams.”
The deal also gave Ngannou a minority stake in the league. That adds to a growing portfolio that includes ownership of a professional soccer team in his native Cameroon. He’s also interested in purchasing a piece of a Major League Soccer team.
UFC fighters have applauded the deal, with UFC hall-of-famer Daniel Cormier saying it “set a new standard.”
Ngannou’s contract with the PFL could be replicated again, according to Davis.
“If people can deliver what Francis can deliver then we will give them a Francis contract,” Davis said during an August interview.
Ngannou has pushed for better pay for his peers. As part of his deal with the PFL, his opponents will receive a guaranteed payout of $2 million.
MMA athletes have already pushed back against their employers. The UFC is currently in the midst of an antitrust lawsuit filed in 2020 by former fighters that alleges unfair business practices and seeks up to $1.6 billion in damages. Ultimately, Ngannou would like to see fighters unionize, but doubts it will happen.
“Until there is a law or government officials [get involved], there is not a way that a union can happen,” Ngannou said. “Fighters have minimal power.”
Sign up for Bloomberg’s Business of Sports newsletter for the context you need on the collision of power, money and sports, from the latest deals to the newest stakeholders. Delivered weekly.
More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.