The very public and very troubled contract negotiations between UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou and the promotion appear to be stalled.
Speaking to ESPN on Thursday, Ngannou stated that he is willing to sit out the remainder of the year if he cannot come to an agreement with the organization. And any such agreement, it seems, will need to include the option to compete in boxing. Plus a hefty pay raise.
“No. No, no, no. I will not fight for $500,000, $600,000 any more,” Ngannou answered when asked if he would fight again under his current contract — which could be extended for a year. “I mean, it’s over. It’s over. I just did this. I took this fight just for a personal reason, and because I want to make sure that regardless, even if it’s unfair, I have been wrongly treated, I can make my case of saying I have completed the eight fights. But no.”
Ngannou signed his most recent contract in 2017, an eight fight deal that will run out as of UFC 270 on January 22. However, a champion’s clause is just one of the obstacles preventing “The Predator” from walking away from the promotion.
The champion’s desire to box is another wrinkle. The UFC has historically forbidden its athletes from competing in other combat sports (while allowing them to take part in non-combat competitions like jiu-jitsu), with the sole exception of Conor McGregor’s fight against Floyd Mayweather.
Arguably, however, Ngannou has drawn the most interest from the boxing world since “The Money Fight.” Just days ago, he and heavyweight champion boxer Tyson Fury engaged in a back-and-forth on social media, one in which boxing rules with MMA gloves was suggested.
“100 percent [I need to box],” Ngannou told ESPN. “We’ve been having discussions for years. It seems like they are OK with it. Let’s be honest, I do believe that whatever you are doing — whatever the event is — if the UFC is involved, it’s just going to make it bigger. There is no question. So, yes, if I box, I would like the UFC to be on-board.”
The promotion, however, is not on board thus far. Something that Ngannou believes is the result of the company acting in bad faith. “Honestly, the only reason we are here is that at some point, there wasn’t good faith in this. I don’t understand why we can’t come to an agreement.”
ESPN’s report cited Ngannou’s manager, Creative Artists Agency’s Marquel Martin, in saying that the champion’s contract cannot run beyond five years — with the caveat that it can be extended should he turn down a fight. Something that occurred last year, resulting in the interim title fight between Ciryl Gane and Derrick Lewis.
Should Ngannou lose at UFC 270, he will become a restricted free agent, able to enter negotiations with other promotions following a 90-day window where the UFC holds exclusive bargaining rights.
Francis Ngannou has not competed since he defeated Stipe Miocic to win the UFC heavyweight title last year. At UFC 270, he’ll attempt to defend the belt against interim champ Gane.