The mixed martial arts community is still digesting the fallout from the groundbreaking end to Francis Ngannou’s stint in free agency.
“The Predator,” who held the UFC’s heavyweight gold between March 2020 and January 2023, departed the promotion after completing his contract last December and turning down a final offer at the start of this year.
Following four months as a free agent and meetings with numerous organizations, Ngannou has found a home in the Professional Fighters League (PFL), where he’s secured all of his desired terms, including the freedom to box.
The Cameroon native has been widely praised for the agreement, which UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya even branded as potentially landscape-changing.
However, the news has also been met with skepticism from some who doubt that Ngannou boasts a strong pool of possible opponents and PFL the pay-per-view model to make the deal work.
By the sounds of it, the higher-ups at Bellator fall into the second category…
Sonnen: Bellator Tried To ‘Smarten’ Ngannou Up
During a recent interview with Brendan Schaub, former two-division UFC title challenger Chael Sonnen looked to shed light on Bellator’s communications with Ngannou.
Not far into his time as a free agent, Ngannou publicly whittled his options down to the PFL and ONE Championship. According to Sonnen, Bellator executive Mike Kogan was quick to inform the heavyweight powerhouse that the promotion wouldn’t be making an offer after hearing his demands during a meeting in Las Vegas.
But more than just withdrawing Bellator’s interest, Sonnen claims that Kogan actually advised Ngannou to rejoin the UFC.
“It was Mike Kogan representing Scott Coker and Bellator. They met Francis, they went to Las Vegas, they had lunch with him,” Sonnen said. “For 25 minutes, Francis just spoke. Kogan really liked him, said he was a real peaceful guy and had a real good sense. But he said, ‘Francis, for the numbers you’re talking, you’re going to need a pay-per-view model. So I’m not going to waste your time. We’re not going to give you an offer.’ Bellator never did put an offer forward for Francis. Once they heard him, they just realized this isn’t going to work.
“And then Kogan tried to smarten Francis up and just say, ‘Look, people can’t figure out why their pay-per-views don’t work… We never went back to pay-per-view… You have to have time. You can’t come in for a one-off… The UFC (has) already got a successful model.’ … He was just trying to let him know that these numbers and for what you want to achieve, you need to make up with the UFC and you need to go back,” Sonnen continued. “Bellator actually told him, ‘Hey, go sign with these guys, they’re treating you pretty good.'”
Evidently, a quick return to the UFC wasn’t on the cards for Ngannou, whose relationship with Dana White has only become more fractured since the two parties’ split was announced at the start of 2023.
Most recently, “The Predator” hit back at White’s negative take on his PFL signing, questioning why the UFC president is so “against” him being “free and happy.”
What is your problem with me?
1. I completed my contract, was a free agent, and chose to walk away. you didn’t release me
2. I hate taking risks? that’s why I defended my title to fulfill my contract with no acl or mcl?
— Francis Ngannou (@francis_ngannou) May 21, 2023
- Read Also: Daniel Cormier Commends Francis Ngannou For ‘Setting A Standard For What’s Out There As A Free Agent’ With PFL Signing
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