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Dana White can’t guarantee Ngannou a title shot, says Benavidez will be in a ‘waiting period’

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The UFC seemingly crowned two top contenders in Minneapolis, MN on Saturday, June 29th. But president Dana White sounds cautious about telling either man they’ll be fighting for a title any time soon.

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It’s a reflection of the chaos of mixed martial arts that there are few guarantees as transient as the promise of a UFC title shot. More now than ever, it seems fighters climb to the top of their respective divisions only to find that being the no. 1 guy only means ta bigger target on their back as they wait for a potential championship bout—one that just might never come through.

In Minneapolis, MN last Saturday, two more fighters added their names to the lists of men and women hoping to see gold the next time they step into the cage. Francis Ngannou blasted Junior dos Santos just over a minute into the first round, setting himself seemingly as the lone title challenger in the wake of Daniel Cormier’s upcoming rematch with Stipe Miocic. And in the co-main event, longtime contender Joseph Benavidez made it clear that he’s still a level above the rest of the flyweight division—stopping Jussier Formiga with a 2nd round TKO.

Dana White dropped by the UFC’s post-event broadcast, however, to caution that both men may need to exercise patience. In the case of Ngannou, Daniel Cormier’s unclear future plans – the champ has spoken of retirement on several occasions – make the ‘Predator’’s own next steps murky.

“This fight has to play out first. Stipe and Cormier has to play out, who wins, how they come out of that fight, what does Cormier want to do next if he wins,” White explained (transcript via MMA Fighting). “So there’s a lot of things that play into what’s next.

“It’s not as easy as ‘I won tonight, I’m next for the fight.’ And we know this. I go through this every single time there’s a fight.”

Adding uncertainty, Jon Jones also seems to be slowly warming up to the idea of taking a third fight with Cormier, telling ESPN, “There’s still a lot of interest in me fighting Daniel Cormier for some reason... I don’t know why people want to see us fight again so bad at heavyweight. I guess that would add a few different factors. So yeah, if that’s the fight the world wants to see, I know one thing about the UFC: We give the fans what they want.”

For Benavidez, the challenge appears to lie less with the uncertain future of the flyweight division – seemingly now ‘saved’ – and instead with champion Henry Cejudo’s recent shoulder injury and the fact that he’s got a whole second title to tend to.

“It’s definitely not good for Benavidez,” White admitted. “He’s going to be in this waiting period. But, I know that Cejudo came out and said he wants to defend that [flyweight] belt first.”

Cejudo recently underwent surgery, which should keep him out until the end of the year. He’s also spoken about wanting to take a shot at the featherweight title, as well as his desire for an improved UFC contract. All of which could leave Beanvidez with a long time to wait for a fight in a division that’s been trimmed back to less than a dozen athletes in the past year.

Colby Covington is the most recent fighter to find himself losing out on a title opportunity. He looked to be the clear welterweight top contender both last summer and this spring. However, various injuries, attempted negotiations, and timing issues have left him sidelined for the past 13 months. He’ll now be taking on former champion Robbie Lawler on August 3rd in the main event of UFC’s ESPN fight card in Newark, NJ. A loss there would almost definitely push the winner of Jorge Masvidal vs. Ben Askren into place as the opponent for Kamaru Usman’s first title defense.

In the meantime, Ngannou and Benavidez will be left to wait and watch and hope that the chips fall perfectly into place. Otherwise, they may find themselves taking on a new wave of hungry contenders, looking for that elusive shot at UFC gold.