Ariel Helwani Addresses Rumor of Francis Ngannou Signing With the PFL: ‘The Story is Sill Evolving’

Francis Ngannou's mother was spotted wearing a shirt with the PFL logo leading some to speculate that the UFC heavyweight champion could jump ship

Francis Ngannou
Courtesy of MMAFightingonSBN and UFC on YouTube

Francis Ngannou reportedly has no contract in place for his return to the Octagon that was rumored for UFC 285.

Ngannou’s last appearance inside the Octagon came at UFC 270 nearly a year ago. Defeating Ciryl Gane via unanimous decision, ‘The Predator’ revealed he would need time off to undergo and recover from knee surgery. Many thought the time away would give the promotion time to negotiate a new contract with their heavyweight champion. Sadly, it sounds like not much progress has been made despite some encouraging words from Dana White. 

Answering viewer questions on a recent episode of The MMA Hour, Ariel Helwani addressed a rumor that Ngannou could be jumping ship to the PFL after his mother was spotted wearing a shirt with the rival fight group’s logo. Helwani also revealed that ‘The Predator’ has no contract in place for his highly anticipated 2023 return. 

“Francis as of right this moment isn’t going to the PFL. I don’t know why his mother was wearing a shirt with the PFL logo on it. The story is still evolving. I still believe at the end of the day he goes back to the UFC in large part because he’s not represented by CAA (Creative Artists Agency). That was a big stumbling block. CAA, Endeavor, they’re not the best of friends, but as of right this moment, there’s no deal in place for him to re-sign. There’s no deal in place for him to fight on March 4 and that’s going to be the real interesting one. 

“It’s January 11. Who’s fighting on March 4? I’ve told you they wanted Jon Jones vs. Francis. Here’s the really interesting thing: If Jon Jones is truly ready to fight on March 4, you gotta get him a fight on March 4. The ideal scenario would be Francis, but we were also told he was truly ready to fight on December 10. You can’t delay. There’s only going to be so many Jon Jones fights left and so if Francis Ngannou is not ready to return… And there’s a possibility he’s just not ready to return. That would be a year or so since the knee injury. It’s not a crazy thought that he won’t be ready.”

If Francis Ngannou Isn’t Ready, Helwani Hopes to See the UFC Call the Next Man on the List

If Francis Ngannou is not ready to return for one reason or another, Helwani hopes to see the UFC move down the line to find Jon Jones an opponent rather than allowing one of their biggest draws to sit on the sideline.

“If Jon Jones is already to return and Francis isn’t, you have to go to the next guy and I imagine the next guy would be Stipe (Miocic). And if for whatever reason Stipe can’t fight, you gotta go to the next guy and I imagine the next guy Ciryl Gane. And if Ciryl Gane’s not ready, you gotta go to the next guy and I would imagine that’s Curtis Blaydes. You gotta get Jon Jones a fight because you don’t know when he’ll be available again. 

Jon Jones has been absent from the Octagon for nearly three years. Now 35 years old, the window of time Jones has left to compete at the highest possible level is closing quickly. The promotion would be best served to book Jones against the best possible opponent for the earliest possible return date in 2023. Whether or not they do that remains to be seen. 

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