It seems as though it took no time at all for the UFC’s relationship with heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou to become fractured and difficult.
Ngannou picked up the belt just this last March, with a second round knockout of Stipe Miocic. But when he wasn’t ready to defend his title for the UFC’s August PPV in Houston, the promotion put together an interim title clash between Derrick Lewis and Ciryl Gane. With Gane having since snagged a piece of the heavyweight belt, it’s left the ‘Predator’ feeling a bit at sea with his own place atop the division.
In a recent interview with GQ magazine, the Xtreme Couture talent opened up with his feelings on the UFC’s decision to award an interim belt.
“Yes. I have that feeling,” Ngannou said when asked if he felt the UFC was disrespecting him. “Just recently they gave me the UFC heavyweight champion, and months later they’re talking about someone else being the champion. Sometimes I’m not even sure if I’m really the champ or not. It’s really confusing.”
“I am the heavyweight champ!” Ngannou added. “And I want to be the UFC heavyweight champ. But in this game, as far as you go, you discover how political it is. The business side of it is not very nice—it’s not as easy as the sport itself. Before the [Stipe Miocic] fight, the only thing the UFC was talking about was how the winner of Stipe and I would face Jon Jones, and that never came along. And here we are: with an interim title and everything.”
Ngannou also spoke about the UFC’s tendency to make unpredictable moves behind the scenes, saying that the promotion can be “very spontaneous, premature, and decisions are out of nowhere.” Nonetheless it sounds like he’s reasonably confident he and the UFC will get together for his return to the cage, even if the negotiation process can be difficult.
“Well a lot is going on,” Ngannou said of his current negotiations with t There’s a lot going on behind the scenes, [but] people don’t see it and they have their own opinion. Before my last fight, the UFC wanted me to sign some contract and that contract wasn’t right. I didn’t sign that contract and I feel like they weren’t happy about that. I signed a contract before, and it didn’t play out very well on my end. So, in order to sign another contract I think it’s my right to at least look out for myself and get what is right for me to fix whatever was the mistake in the previous one. And if someone doesn’t believe they should fix their mistake then that means that person is not looking for anything good for you.”
There’s no word on when the UFC is looking to book their title unifcation bout between Ngannou and Gane. But following his victory over Derrick Lewis earlier this month, ‘Bon Gamin’ revealed that he’s hoping to take several months off.
“I fought a lot,” Gane said in a recent appearance on the MMA Hour (transcript via the Mirror), when talking about his next bout. “I did a lot of camp and I just want to rest a little bit with my second daughter … maybe December of ’21 or maybe January or February.”