Now-former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou says he is “at peace” with his decision to part ways with the company, after contract negotiations between the two parties failed to see an agreement reached.
Speaking on a special Tuesday edition of The MMA Hour, Ngannou addressed just what happened to prompt to his exit from the company, where he had been the undisputed, reigning heavyweight champ since March of 2021, when he defeated Stipe Miocic to claim UFC gold.
“I couldn’t say yes about something,” Ngannou said of a last-ditch effort to negotiate a new deal just last week, after the promotion informed him that they needed to announce a main event for the March 4 card in Las Vegas. “There wasn’t a way that I would have just let it by. It was a matter of principle. At that time, I knew, that okay, this is it. They didn’t say it on the phone, they didn’t say ‘okay, this is what’s going to happen,’ but I knew.”
It was no surprise to Ngannou, therefore, to hear UFC Dana White confirm that he was no longer with the promotion following UFC Vegas 67. News of a heavyweight title fight between Jon Jones and Ciryl Gane had leaked earlier in the day. Negotiations were between Ngannou (without a manager), Hunter Campbell, UFC Business Officer, and matchmaker Mick Maynard — though Ngannou says he felt as if White was in the background.
“I really hoped for this to work out. I really wished we could find a way to work [things] out. I’ve been in the UFC for the past seven years, and I’ve always seen myself in the UFC,” noted Ngannou. “I never really envisioned myself out of the UFC.”
But, Ngannou reiterated, it was a matter of principle. And much of what the heavyweight was asking for during negotiations wasn’t financially motivated.
“Obviously money is a part of it, but it wasn’t all about money. I need some stuff, and they would never talk about that stuff. It was very interesting, how they picked what they would talk about. They wouldn’t talk about what the negotiation was about, they just talked about the money they could give me, that could have made me the biggest paid UFC heavyweight in history. Which is how much? They can’t tell [me]. Bigger than who? Nobody knows.”
“It’s all a narrative, which cannot be proven. So I don’t believe that,” Ngannou added. “But I wish it could have worked. I really do. And I really wanted it — but not at any cost.”
Ngannou revealed that he had asked for a three fight deal, that would include both Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic, with no extensions. That was to allow for Ngannou to box at the end of the deal, since he couldn’t box while under contract with the UFC. And Ngannou admits he asked for a lot from the promotion, including sponsorships, health insurance, and a fighter advocate at board meetings — but he did not expect to get everything. The problem seems to be that none of his requests were considered. “No. They said no, they don’t do business like that.”
“At this point health insurance for me it not a problem, but how about those guys at the bottom, that make 10 + 10 [thousand per fight]? They can’t really afford health insurance. I’ve been there, so it’s something that I still carry in my heart,” Ngannou stated.
“I did ask that for everyone. I knew it couldn’t happen, but I asked.”
As for Dana White’s press conference and the insinuation that Ngannou wants easier fights for more money, “Dana is Dana. I don’t care about what he said, and he cannot hurt me,” Ngannou stated.
Looking to the future, boxing could be in the cards for Francis Ngannou. “Maybe Tyson Fury is a lesser opponent for Dana White, because I don’t know exactly what he’s talking about,” Ngannou stated. But it’s his gut feeling that yes, boxing will come next. “Hopefully, the latest will be July,” he said of a return. “My gut, I would say boxing.”
“In a perfect world, I go out there, get some boxing match, then come back, get some MMA. Maybe switch again. I don’t know then what would be the challenge out there.”
Tyson Fury is one name on the radar, and Ngannou says he’s good with either a pure boxing bout, or using 4oz gloves in a hybrid style. “Tyson Fury, or Anthony Joshua.” He hasn’t spoken to anyone on that side, however, with “The Predator” adding “it’s been two days.” Deontay Wilder, “he’s interesting to me,” but Ngannou believes Wilder has his own contract entanglements that could hinder that booking.
“Primarily, Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, and yes, Deontay Wilder.”
Ultimately, Ngannou appears to be satisfied with where he is.
“I’m happy. I’m happy. I’m at peace with my choice, my decision, whatever I have done,” he stated. “I need some more respect at least. It’s very important. I need some respect, I need some freedom, I need to feel like a man. Own my freedom, control my destiny. Decide what I’m going to do. I don’t want anybody to decide for me. I’m think I’m made enough to decide for my own.”
The door remains open for a UFC return down the road, at least from Ngannou’s side, however. “I don’t take any of this personally,” he stated.
“But one thing that I know, even in that situation, it has to be on my terms.”