“This is not an athlete deal. Francis is an icon in the sport today, he’s the best in the world at what he does, but he’s in business with the PFL,” Murray said. “We’re in business together.”
He noted that plans to expand the PFL to Africa in 2024 are expected to begin in 2025. The process, led in part by Nganu, involves making the continent host fighters and nations. Nganunu said they see Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa as early targets. Meanwhile, he said he wants to do a boxing match this year before fighting again in mixed martial arts.
The challenge for Murray and PFL executives now is to successfully build the league’s pay-per-view division and find opponents for Ngannou, Harrison and Paul that will draw fans — to watch and pay for.
Although the PFL is supported by media rights deals, sponsorships and ticket sales, pay-per-view is one of the biggest financial drivers in mixed martial arts. Harrison headlined the PFL’s first and only pay-per-view event last November. By comparison, the UFC has scheduled 13 fights in 2022.
“The launch of pay-per-view combined with the launch of regional leagues – that’s what drives the balance and that’s what the league is focused on,” Murray said.
The PFL had to adjust parts of the 2023 season after the Nevada State Athletic Commission banned a group of fighters on Friday. While the league and commission have not publicly disclosed why, the PFL said in a statement that it “has a zero-tolerance policy regarding the use of banned substances.”
During his free tenure, Nganunu has become a polarizing figure among fans and fighters alike, who say he made a mistake by turning down UFC offers to stay. On Twitter, He posted a picture of himself Sitting in a luxury Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicle, with a caption mocking the words “he cheated on the bag”. Now with PFL, he said the decision was worth it.
“When people don’t understand you, obviously what you’re doing, there’s a lot of criticism., But when you’re sure of what you’re doing and you’re sure of where you’re going and you realize success, you have to be patient and accept the moment when everyone sees it.