Ngannou has not fought since January of 2022, when he defeated Ciryl Gane at UFC 270. Following the fight, he wasn’t able to agree to a contract extension with the UFC and vacated his title.
Ngannou is looking for big money but the 36-year-old big man has not fielded an offer that meets his standard. ONE Championship is the most recent organization to drop out of the running for Ngannou, with CEO Chatri Sityodtong announcing they were withdrawing from bidding for his services.
“I met with Francis yesterday for almost three hours,” Sityodtong told the South China Morning Post. “ONE has decided to withdraw from the process of bidding for Francis Ngannou’s services. 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.”
Helwani: Francis Ngannou ‘Very Close’ to New Deal
Veteran UFC reporter Ariel Helwani reached out to Ngannou after the ONE news and got “The Predator’s side of the story. He revealed there’s a deal in the works.
“Francis is very close to signing a new deal with another promotion. And according to Francis, he was very upfront about this,” Helwani said on “The MMA Hour” on Monday. “And so they left the meeting on good terms, but both of them came to an understanding that because he had already kind of verbally committed to someone, more than likely he’s not going to ONE.”
Helwani added that Ngannou could sign somewhere this week and believes Sityodtong was trying to save face with his statement.
“I think [Sityodtong] 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 you couldn’t come to terms cause he had a deal or he wanted something else,” Helwani said.
So where is the former champ heading? Helwani isn’t certain but believes the PFL is a front-runner based on his conversations with Ngannou.
“I thought it was really interesting when I asked him [Ngannou] about PFL, that was the one that really got him fired up,” he said.
No UFC Return in the Cards for Francis Ngannou
The UFC offered Ngannou record money, per president Dana White. But things went sideways and White shut the door on Ngannou returning.
“We worked with this guy for two years, we tried to get him a fight,” White said on the “Pat McAfee Show.” “He’s absolutely impossible to deal with. No, he’ll never be in the UFC again.
“We worked hard, man. One of my guys, Hunter Campbell, who works for me, must have done 75 dinners with his guy trying to get him on board. We offered him a lot of money, showed him nothing but respect. We wanted to keep him, and that ship has sailed.”
The UFC heavyweight division is still in good shape without Ngannou in the picture. Much of that is thanks to the return of Jon Jones, who won his heavyweight debut back in March, submitting Gane for the belt.