There were a lot of storylines heading into Saturday’s UFC 270, the promotion’s first PPV of the year. None of them, it seemed, were about the fights themselves.
For heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, talk had mostly surrounded his contract situation. “The Predator” was on the final fight of his deal as he prepared to face former teammate Ciryl Gane. Fighter and promotion had failed to come to terms on a new contract; Ngannou insisted that he’d no longer fight for $500,000 or $600,000, and that the option to participate in boxing was a must.
Of course, in UFC history, all of one person had managed to force the UFC’s hand on the boxing front: Conor McGregor.
Outside of contracts, the biggest story regarding the heavyweight title unification bout was old sparring footage of Gane and Ngannou. It was, at best, an odd way to build up one of the most interesting heavyweight title fights in history. Sparring being sparring, and the footage being dated, there was little to be gleaned from the incomplete video.
The co-main event at UFC 270, meanwhile, had become a story of former friends, except one party wasn’t even fighting. Henry Cejudo, who had once coached flyweight champ Brandon Moreno on The Ultimate Fighter, was serving as a coach for Deiveson Figueiredo at Fight Ready. When “The King of Cringe” failed the choose Moreno first overall on TUF, their friendship had begun to deteriorate; Cejudo would later claim that it was Moreno who betrayed him, working with rival TUF coach Joseph Benavidez ahead of the show’s finale.
Figueiredo, meanwhile, was looking to avenge his coach and punish his betrayer, despite being six months away from his UFC debut when the drama unfolded. Never mind that the real focus of the fight should have been on the pair’s trilogy, and Figueiredo looking to reclaim his title from the first Mexican-born champion in UFC history.
Ahead of the event, the promotion had one final chance to steer the narrative towards the fights themselves — which on paper were both extremely competitive. That came at Thursday’s UFC 270 pre-fight press conference in Anaheim. A live stream can be found above, kicking off at 8PM ET.