Francis Ngannou was the UFC heavyweight champion until he was released from his contract by the promotion earlier this year.
Ngannou had a contract dispute with the UFC over his pay and his freedom to pursue other opportunities, such as boxing or acting.
He felt that his contract, which he signed in 2018 and had two fights left on it, did not reflect his market value and limited his potential earnings.
Ngannou wanted to renegotiate his contract with the UFC or be released from it, but he said the UFC was not willing to do either. He said he felt “stuck” and “trapped” by the UFC.
Ngannou hoped to resolve the situation amicably with the UFC, but he was prepared to take legal action if necessary. He said he wanted to fight for his rights and his future.
Ngannou became the UFC heavyweight champion in March 2021 when he knocked out Stipe Miocic in a rematch at UFC 260. He defended his title once against Ciryl Gane in a unification bout at UFC 270 in January 2022.
After his win over Gane, Ngannou expressed his interest in fighting former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones or boxing heavyweight champion Tyson Fury.
However, Ngannou said that his contract with the UFC prevented him from pursuing outside opportunities without their approval. He said that he was paid a flat fee per fight regardless of how much revenue he generated for the promotion. He also said that he had no say in who he fought or when he fought.
Speaking to Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, Ngannou said that he tried to negotiate a new contract with the UFC that would give him more money and more flexibility, but he claimed that they rejected his proposals and offered him less than what he was making before. He said that they also threatened to strip him of his title if he did not accept their terms.
Ngannou said that he felt disrespected and exploited by the UFC. He said that they did not appreciate his value as a fighter and a star. He said that they treated him like an employee rather than a partner. He said that they did not care about his goals or dreams outside of MMA.
In response to Ngannou’s comments, UFC president Dana White announced at a press conference on January 15, 2022, that Ngannou would be released from his contract and stripped of his title effective immediately. White said that Ngannou turned down a contract that would have made him the highest-paid heavyweight fighter in UFC history.
“We offered Ngannou a deal that would make him the highest-paid heavyweight of all time,” said White. “He turned it down. We’re going to release him from his contract. He can go wherever he wants and do whatever he wants.”
White accused Ngannou of being greedy and unrealistic. He said that Ngannou wanted too much money for fights that were not guaranteed to sell well. He also said that Ngannou wanted to compete in other sports without honoring his obligations to the UFC.
White said that the UFC could not afford to keep a champion who was not willing to fight regularly and defend his belt against worthy challengers. He announced that Jon Jones would face Ciryl Gane for the vacant title at UFC 285 on March 5, 2022.
White wished Ngannou good luck in whatever he decided to do next. He said that he had no hard feelings toward him personally.
“It’s been fun while he’s been here, I wish him the best,” White told reporters.
In conclusion, Francis Ngannou’s departure from the UFC has been a controversial and unprecedented move that has shaken up the MMA world.
Ngannou has expressed his dissatisfaction with the UFC’s treatment of him and his desire to pursue other opportunities in boxing and acting. He has also thanked them for giving him a platform to showcase his skills and reach millions of fans.
Ngannou has been linked to boxing fights with Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, and Deontay Wilder, who confirmed that they have been in talks over a two-fight deal.
He has also been approached by Derek Chisora for a potential fight. Ngannou has revealed his plan to do one boxing match in March and then return to MMA with another organization.
Recently, Ngannou explained that he wants to make better use of his free agency status and fight for his rights and his future.
“I want to do boxing first and then MMA,” Ngannou said. “Maybe I’ll explore the possibility to do one boxing match in March and come back into MMA with another organization. I’m respected everywhere. I’m happy to be a free agent. Free agency is something not many fighters in their prime have a chance to experience. I fought for it for the past three years, and I want to make better use of it.”
Ngannou remains confident that he is still the best heavyweight fighter in the world, regardless of what critics say about him.
“Remember. They’re gonna be saying a lot of things. They’re going to be trying to bash me, to devalue me,” Ngannou told fans. “But no matter what, you have to remember who the real king is. The best heavyweight in the world. I’m the best heavyweight in the world, and I don’t care what they say out there.”