Not every fighter can claim a heavyweight title, and even fewer are able to defend the belt against strong competition. Francis Ngannou is one of the rare few, however, as he successfully defended the title against Ciryl Gane at UFC 270. The fighter’s future with the UFC is far but certain, as Ngannou has been embroiled in messy contract negotiations with Dana White, the UFC president. In fact, Ngannou is unsure if he wants to continue fighting at all.
Doubts about the future
After defending his heavyweight title, Ngannou spoke with reporters about his future plans. The fighter feels limited in his UFC contract in multiple ways. He objects to his $600,000 rate for one thing, claiming that while he had fought for much less in the past, he understands his worth and demands a better pay rate. Perhaps even more pressing than the fee, however, is Ngannou’s desire to be a free agent.
Ngannou has often spoken of his dream to become a boxer. This is something that is currently not permitted within his UFC contract. The fighter wants to be granted an exception that allows him to spend time in the ring, perhaps even with Tyson Fury, the two-time world heavyweight champion.
Ngannou is quick to shoot down the idea that his complaints are solely based around money, telling reporters that:
“It’s not simply money… it’s also the terms of the contract that I don’t agree with. I don’t feel like it’s fair. I don’t feel like I’m a free man. I don’t feel like I’ve been treated good.”
The statement comes in the midst of controversy surrounding Ngannou’s win. It is not the title that is being disputed – he won it fair and square. Instead, it is what happened after the fight that has people talking. It is customary for White to wrap the heavyweight belt around the fighter’s waist after they have won it. He did not do that for Ngannou after the match, nor did he attend the press conference afterwards.
2022 fights up in the air
For his part, Ngannou is playing hardball. He says that the only reason he fought the match against Gane was because he wanted to ensure that he was not in breach of his contract, which would have expired after UFC 270 had he lost. He is adamant that he will never fight for $600,000 or less again. While he acknowledges that the current situation is unfortunate, he reiterates his belief in his demands:
“It’s unfortunate that I have to be in this position… I feel like everyone should have the right to claim for what’s best for them.”
At the end of the day, he concludes that players:
“put a lot of work for this job and we take a lot on our body to make it happen, so we can have a fair and square deal.”
What comes next for Ngannou, an undeniable star in the industry? The win over Gane certainly gave him leverage, now we must wait to see if it is enough.