Bellator set to pursue Francis Ngannou with a Boxing stipulation

Francis Ngannou is  the hottest free agent in combat sports right now. However, Bellator may be the most aggressive in their pursuit of the former UFC heavyweight champion. 

The president of Showtime Sports, Stephen Espinoza, talked to Insider about the UFC superstar. He said that Showtime is hellbent on bringing Ngannou to Bellator, while also boxing for Showtime.

“There will be a very aggressive pursuit of him.” said Espinoza.

Espinoza said that sending a message to the UFC is more important than signing Ngannou.

“To be completely honest, a lot of this is not about Ngannou or about a particular fight,”

“It’s about the precedent and the message that is sent to everyone else in the UFC, and to future deals in the UFC.”

According to him, while Ngannou had leverage for being a draw, his demands didn’t fit the UFC’s business model.

“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.” said the executive.

The company wasn’t going to step away from its policies even though Ngannou was a star.

“They’ve got a business structure they’re not going to threaten for even something as attractive as Ngannou,” Espinoza told the magazine.

We also know that Ngannou is interested in competing for the PFL. He himself has mentioned that “PFL is an option.”

Regarding this, the TV executive said that he doesn’t “really see a comparison between the two organizations; Bellator and PFL,”

He feels like Bellator has a much better roster than the PFL, which itself is no slouch when it comes to talent.

“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, like many others, believes that “whoever ends up with Ngannou is going to get a big boost,”

He gave the reason for this: “Because of the interest in boxing, and he still has a lot of opportunities within MMA.”

The Showtime boss also said that Bellator, or whichever promotion Ngannou signs with, is going to do as he says regarding matchmaking.

He’ll be allowed to fight the reigning HW champion, which in Bellator’s case is Ryan Bader, right after signing or take it slow.

“If he wants to go into a big heavyweight match-up right away, if he wants to do a long-term build, or bounce back and forth — the world is his oyster.”

Espinoza also explained why Ngannou would choose Bellator over his other suitors.

He said that the company is more flexible in allowing the contractor to pursue boxing along with MMA. He also believes that Bellator and Showtime can provide the biggest opportunities to Ngannou.

“We have the ability to be cohesive and collaborative with the boxing and MMA opportunities,”

“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.”

Insider also talked to its anonymous source in Bellator, who also gave us the scoop.

“Any time there’s a free agent on the market, we’d be interested in pursuing their talents. Francis is no exception.”

The source said that “Francis has been talking to Bellator, and to other places.” and that the “PFL is spending a lot,”