This past weekend we learned that UFC 285 would be headlined by Jon Jones and Ciryl Gane for the heavyweight title. With that, it was announced that former champion Francis Ngannou (17-3) was being stripped of his title and it was revealed that Ngannou was a free agent.
Dana White hinted that Ngannou was at a position in his career where he didn’t want to fight the best guys in the world. He also said that the UFC made Ngannou an offer that would have made him the highest paid heavyweight in the history of the promotion. That includes Brock Lesnar.
Today, Ngannou appeared on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Hour on a special edition of the show and talked about his side of things. Ngannou talked about what he wanted and why he couldn’t agree to the terms that the UFC were throwing out for his new contract.
Why the UFC deal fell apart
From the very beginning, Francis Ngannou said that he was fighting for other fighters. He made it clear that it wasn’t about money and he just wanted to change things within the UFC. During his negotiations, he asked for a number of different things from the promotion.
From his perspective, he asked for a three-fight deal that would likely conclude his run in the UFC. Ngannou said that he was eyeing two fights with Jon Jones and the trilogy with Stipe Miocic. While the promotion wasn’t into the idea, they ultimately agreed to give Ngannou that short-term deal.
So, where did the deal break down? Ngannou wanted health insurance for fighters, in-cage sponsorships, and a fighter advocate to be in the meetings with UFC brass. Much like a union representative. Of course, all of these were non-starters for the UFC.
Whenever Ngannou pushed on these items, the promotion responded by offering him more money. By all indications, Ngannou turned down a massive financial offer because he didn’t want to give in on the things he wanted to see changed within the promotion.
Last week, the UFC reached out one more time to try and get the Jon Jones fight done for March. When Ngannou wouldn’t budge, they moved on to Ciryl Gane. Now, Francis Ngannou is free to go wherever he wants.
Ngannou made it clear that he has no bad blood with the UFC. In fact, Ngannou said he’s incredibly grateful because the promotion gave him the opportunity to have the platform he does.
What’s next for Ngannou?
Ariel Helwani pointed out in the interview that there isn’t a ton of big fights in MMA outside of the UFC. Ngannou seemed to agree with that, but he seems to be focused on boxing. In terms of potential opponents, Ngannou listed Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, and Deontay Wilder. Fury and Joshua being his top targets.
My guess is that the next time we see Ngannou in combat sports, it’ll be in boxing. I’m still not willing to rule out a future return to the UFC, but it’s not going to happen anytime soon. If he goes to another MMA promotion, my money would be on the PFL. You can catch Ngannou’s full interview below.