Francis Ngannou doesn’t seem to lack any confidence when he enters the octagon. Confidence in his employer seems to be in short supply, however.
Ahead of UFC 249, Ngannou, a former title challenger in the heavyweight division, expressed doubt that his fight against Jairziho Rozenstruik would be a title eliminator. A label the promising bout has had affixed to it in recent weeks.
“Honestly, I don’t know. I thought my last fight was for the title fight,” Ngannou told media outlets including Cageside Press at the UFC 249 virtual media day. “I thought this fight would be for the title fight, but it didn’t happen. So I don’t know. I’ll see what happens.”
A clear sense of frustration seemed to envelope Ngannou when he discussed the heavyweight title picture. “Our division has been frustrating and held up for a very long time,” he observed. When it comes to clearing up the murky title picture, “there’s a lot of things they still have to put together.”
One obvious factor is champion Stipe Miocic‘s status as a first responder. The UFC has waited months to book a highly lucrative trilogy fight between Miocic and Daniel Cormier. That’s left top contenders like Ngannou and Rozenstruik in limbo.
With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, however, Miocic’s focus shifted elsewhere. When not competing in the octagon, Miocic serves as a firefighter in his native Ohio. It’s unclear when he might be ready to defend his title.
“It’s kind of weird, a little bit,” noted Ngannou. “It has been almost one year since a fight for the title. When is the next time for the title in the heavyweight division? No one knows. When is that fight against Stipe and D.C.? Nobody knows.”
Despite the idea of stripping Stipe Miocic being floated recently, Ngannou said he’s not thinking about that at the moment. In part, because it’s not his call. Instead, he’s touting the idea of an interim title — something opponent Jairzinho Rozenstruik has also suggested.
The UFC, however, has declined that option, at least for the time being. So what is a heavyweight to do, other than focus on the task at hand? “I don’t know exactly what you can do besides win the fight. I think I’m going to win the fight on Saturday [against Rozenstruik], but at this point I’ve realized that it’s not your call,” said Ngannou. “There’s no rules. It’s all about what the UFC wants.”
“If they want [it], it happens, if they don’t want [it], it won’t happen. I’m okay with that,” he finished on the subject.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Francis Ngannou goes down at UFC 249 on May 9 from the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. The main card airs live on PPV following televised and online prelims on ESPN/ESPN+ (TSN in Canada).