ONE Championship CEO Meeting with Francis Ngannou This Week, Downplays PFL as a Legitimate Competitor

ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong confirmed that he is set to meet with former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou this weekend while also taking a dig at the PFL.

Chatri Sityodtong
Courtesy of @ONEChampionship and @ESPNMMA on Twitter

ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong revealed that he will be meeting with former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou to hopefully hammer out a deal in the coming days. 

Since being released from the Las Vegas-based promotion after two years of failed negotiations, Francis Ngannou is yet to find himself a new combat sports promotion to call home. Appearing on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, Sityodtong suggested that will change in the near future as ‘The Predator’ is expected to make his choice amid a myriad of offers. 

“Francis, we’ve been in discussions. I like Francis. He brings a lot to the table. I think he’ll have a tough time in our heavyweight division, to be frank, which I’ve said that publicly and I think it’ll be a big challenge for Francis,” Sityodtong said. “When you look at a guy like Anatoly Malykhin, he’s 12-0, a former Russian national team wrestler. One-punch KO power. He’s 12-0 with an 80% finish rate. That is the worst nightmare to face against a big striker like Ngannou, but at the same time, Francis has the X-factor. He’s a giant monster.”

As for when their conversation is set to take place, Sityodtong confirmed that he plans on meeting with the heavy-handed Cameroonian this Saturday in Los Angeles to present ONE Championship’s final offer. 

“He and I will sit down and talk,” Sityodtong revealed. “For sure one of them can give him the biggest offer out of all of them on the table out of all his bids, but it has to work for him and it has to work for us and I just believe that meeting somebody, you get the energy.” 

As excited as Chatri Sityodtong is about potentially signing the biggest free agent in MMA history, the ONE CEO believes the ex-UFC standout will have a very tough time against the heavyweight onslaught that awaits him inside the ONE Circle. 

“I think there’s going to be big news on Francis shortly and I think he’s taking his time,” Sityodtong continued. “From the few interactions I’ve had with Francis, he’s very thoughtful, methodical, and careful. And at the same time, he’s a very principled man. That’s one thing I’ve learned about him. He does things on principle and a dollar here, a dollar there won’t sway him. It’s principles and that’s what’s very admirable about him by the way. At the same time, I do believe the world is his oyster. I do believe he’s a big pay-per-view draw in boxing or in MMA. Of course, it has to be the right opponent. 

“I think Francis will run through the heavyweight division of every other organization. The only heavyweight division that will give him a challenge… Let’s say a rising star like ‘Buchecha’ who’s [4-0], he is arguably the greatest grappler of all time. He’s a [17-time] jiu-jitsu world champion. He’s run through all of his opponents. That kind of style with his incredible wrestling, that kind of style is a nightmare for Francis. That’s a rising star within the heavyweight division. If you look at the cream of the crop.

“Again, I’ve looked at the other heavyweight divisions, not to knock other organizations, I’m just saying, again, looking at the skillsets of the heavyweight division. And to speak frankly again, in mixed martial arts, the heavyweight division has always been a weaker spot globally. With the lower weight classes, the technique level, the athleticism is… Because in the heavyweight division, if you have one big punch you can end the fight and not necessarily be the very best in the world.”

Chatri Sityodtong Does Not See the PFL as a Legitimate Competitor for ONE Championship

While Chatri Sityodtong has taken his fair share of digs at the UFC and Bellator in recent years, the ONE Championship CEO at least sees them as legitimate global competitors. He can’t say the same for the Professional Fighters League.

Continuing his conversation with Ariel Helwani, Sityodtong mentioned that there were two other global mixed martial arts promotions. Asked to clarify which two he was referring to he said, “It’s UFC and Bellator.” Asked why PFL was not included in that list, Sityodtong suggested the MMA Hour host take a look at “hard facts and numbers” before elaborating on his reasoning. 

“According to Nielsen, our TV reach, meaning viewers who watch ONE Championship is 400 million plus. I think 409 million. UFC was 259 million. This is global numbers, and Bellator was at 11 million.”

Sityodtong also looked at social media numbers to distance himself even further from other combat sports entities aside from their direct competitor in the global market, the UFC. 

“If you are a casual fan, just go to the social media pages. Look at the number of followers. Look at the engagement rates. Look at the organic video views. Let’s just take Facebook for example. The UFC has about 40 million fans on Facebook. [ONE Championship] has 38 million. Bellator has two million, three million I think. PFL has one million, but you have to look at the engagement rates. That’s how you know if you have a real fan base. But then if you look from the financial perspective, there are only two companies in combat sports globally that have a billion-dollar-plus evaluation.” 

Sityodtong’s targeting of the PFL is likely related to the promotion’s own interest in acquiring the services of Francis Ngannou. One-time UFC title challenger Dan Hardy suggested that it was just a matter of time before ‘The Predator’ signed with the PFL during an exclusive interview with MiddleEasy. Hardy currently works as the promotion’s Director of Fighter Operations for PFL Europe.

Published on April 26, 2023 at 6:01 pm
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