Now that he’s free of the UFC, Francis Ngannou has plenty of options for his next career move – and Bellator, along with Showtime Boxing, hope he’s giving them serious consideration.
Speaking with Insider, Showtime Sports president Stephen Espinoza said “Bellator is absolutely interested” and explained why signing with the company should be attractive to Ngannou.
“There is no one else in the world who can give him the opportunities in both boxing and MMA at the level Bellator and Showtime Boxing can do,” Espinoza said before adding: “Showtime and Bellator can give him the best flexibility and bang for his buck, the biggest most lucrative financial opportunity, all while really allowing him to develop all elements of his career simultaneously.”
Showtime’s boxing business, as well as being the broadcast home of Bellator MMA events, would provide Ngannou, 36, the opportunity to do what he’s long wanted: compete in both sports.
Ngannou asked for that flexibility – and more – from the UFC during negotiations that UFC president Dana White said lasted almost two years. Ultimately the two sides could not come to an agreement, making Ngannou, the UFC heavyweight champion until two weeks ago, perhaps the biggest free agent in MMA history.
To Espinoza, the outcome should serve as a cautionary tale for UFC fighters.
“To be completely honest, a lot of this is not about Ngannou or about a particular fight,” Espinoza said. “It’s about the precedent and the message that is sent to everyone else in the UFC and to future deals in the UFC. So, what Ngannou was trying to do was break the mold a little bit, and he certainly had leverage to at least have that conversation. But ultimately, from my perspective, the UFC felt they had far more at stake. They have a particular business model. Ngannou was not a fan of that business model, and that I think was a step too far for the UFC.
“They’ve got a business structure they’re not going to threaten for even something as attractive as an Ngannou.”
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The UFC’s loss will be someone else’s gain. The PFL also has expressed interest and could be attractive to Ngannou given it’s venturing into pay-per-view this year, with a 50-50 revenue split in play from shows that stream on ESPN+. Ngannou could join PFL and have similar flexibility in boxing with Top Rank, which has a broadcast deal with ESPN.
At least on the MMA side of things, Espinoza doesn’t think there’s much of a comparison.
“When we look at the roster of talent, Bellator is much, much deeper both in terms of established talent and up-and-coming talent, and that’s not a sleight on the talent in PFL, because there’s some very talented fighters there,” Espinoza said. “But if we look overall at the talent in the organization, then anyone knowledgeable in MMA can see that Bellator has a stronger base with its top-10 fighters in the roster as a whole. PFL is a bit louder about their boasts, whereas Bellator goes about it quietly and lets the talents of the fighters speak for themselves.”
Bottom line: The world is Ngannou’s oyster as he ponders his next move, and Espinoza knows this.
“Without question, whoever ends up with Ngannou is going to get a big boost,” Espinoza said. “Because of the interest in boxing, and he still has a lot of opportunities within MMA. … If he wants to go into a big heavyweight matchup right away, if he wants to do a long-term build or bounce back and forth, the world is his oyster. There isn’t an organization that wouldn’t want to call him up and try to do business with him.”
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Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie