UFC heavyweight Francis Ngannou has a custom-designed, unique piece of digital art that he will auction as an NFT this weekend, but only if he wins his title fight first.
A day before he faces Stipe Miocic in UFC 260’s main event on Saturday night, Ngannou will release an open edition digital art card for $999 on the MakersPlace market. If he wins that fight, and only if he wins, two more sales are scheduled: a set of 11 limited edition pieces, as well as the one-of-one version. That rare auction item will also come with a set of signed gloves, sealed along with sand from the mine where Ngannou worked while growing up in Cameroon.
“The entire collection tells a story,” Ngannou’s agent, Marquel Martin, said. It also represents a step forward for sports in the non-fungible token business by closely tying a digital object to a real-world event—or not. NBA Top Shot moments capture specific plays but are generally minted days if not weeks after the fact, though speculation percolates over the possibility of leaving a game with a moment created that night.
The drop also comes as UFC actively sorts out its entry into the NFT space after signing a deal with Dapper Labs, the creators of Top Shot, last year. MMA fighter Cyborg led the way into NFTs in 2020, but it has grown to a new level over the last two months. Last week, Patrick Mahomes used MakersPlace to sell $3.7 million in NFTs.
“Ngannou’s journey embodies the power of dedication as well as the ability to and importance of breaking through barriers, which is completely in line with our mission at MakersPlace with NFTs,” MakersPlace CEO Dannie Chu said in an email.
Ngannou’s art was designed by BossLogic, a creator who sold $3.6 million in NFTs in February, according to Cointelegraph, and has more than 2 million Instagram followers. “My love for art is known and also my love for MMA is known amongst its community too, so I jumped on the chance to join the two in this new era,” the artist said in an email. “This is the first time collaborating with an athlete officially, so this one is unique to the space. It’s a milestone for me.”
Martin said the sale is about three weeks in the making, with Key founder and CEO Evan Wayne helping to make it happen. One of the limited edition items will be given away in a free contest, the signups for which will help provide “a comprehensive understanding of [Ngannou’s] audience and an avenue to meaningfully connect with them in the future,” Wayne said, adding that athletes should be focused on building a direct link with their fans.
An undisclosed portion of the proceeds will also go to the Francis Ngannou Foundation.