UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou is reportedly on the last fight of his current contract with the promotion. ‘The Predator’, who faces interim champ Ciryl Gane in a title unification bout in the main event of UFC 270, has been in prolonged, strained negotiations with the UFC over putting together a new deal to compete inside the Octagon. Recently he made it clear that one of the sticking points has been his desire for a boxing clause, that would allow him to compete in the ring as well as the cage. However, if Ngannou is going to stick by that provision, he should make sure it happens on his terms.
“(Boxing) is something that I’m not taking my eyes off of it,” Ngannou told TMZ. “This gonna happen either way. And if or when the UFC and I, we finalize a deal, the boxing part has to be in to it. Because I can’t see myself (retiring) without boxing.”
The UFC allowed Conor McGregor to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a boxing bout in August 2017. Mayweather won that contest via TKO in the 10th round. But, according to Floyd’s uncle Jeff Mayweather, the UFC took a large portion of McGregor’s purse to allow their biggest star to step into the ring.
“Last I heard, Conor McGregor has to take a horrendous split: 80 to 20 percent,” Mayweather told Helen Yee before the bout. “(McGregor) would have to take 20 percent, if he’s allowed to fight. And the one thing is that Dana’s his boss. He’ll still make more money than he ever did, but at the same time … that’s a very tough pill to swallow.”
Boxing promoter Bob Arum said the UFC’s portion was likely smaller, but still substantial.
“I think the only impediment (to the fight) is the UFC, because the UFC doesn’t treat fighters the same way that boxing promoters do. In other words, UFC fighters get so much less than boxers do.,” speaking to Fight TV in March 2017. “They proposed a deal to Conor that on his share of the purse they take 50 percent.”
A source close to the negotiations, who wished to remain anonymous, substantiated that last number to Bloody Elbow, that the UFC got half of McGregor’s purse from his Mayweather bout.
If fighters truly want to keep their status as independent contractors, Ngannou’s management absolutely shouldn’t allow the UFC to take any portion of the revenue from whatever boxing bouts the heavyweight champ can line up. After all, the UFC has made it clear time and again that they do not ‘employ’ their fighters.
“These guys are independent contractors,” Dana White clarified in 2020, when speaking about Jon Jones and Jorge Masvidal and their contract battles with the promotion. “This isn’t like the NFL, where I can make you – you come to practice, and you do this, or you’re going to get fined. These guys can do whatever they want. They can say whatever they want. I had a big thing the other day with a reporter about fighter pay. They can come out and tell you what they make any day of the week. They can do any of that stuff. These guys can do whatever they want. They don’t have to fight.”
As that’s the case, they shouldn’t be entitled to take any money from a fighter for participating in any non-UFC related activity. Especially given that the UFC doesn’t put on boxing fights. They aren’t an active boxing promoter. If the UFC isn’t willing to operate under the provisions of the Ali Act, then it’s hard to see how they can make a claim to any proceeds that might come from their contracted MMA fighters stepping into the boxing ring.
Of course, the question still stands, would the UFC be willing to let one of their top talents walk away from the organization entirely, at the peak of his skills. Ngannou is currently set to face interim champ Ciryl Gane in a title unification bout on January 22nd in Anaheim, CA. Should Ngannou exit that booking as the undisputed heavyweight champ it seems unlikely that his career with the world’s largest MMA promotion would end there.
Should he lose to Gane, however, then it may just be that the UFC would rather wash their hands of the whole process than wade into negotiations with Ngannou over his boxing career. Whatever the future holds, if Ngannou truly wants to test himself in the boxing ring, he should be able to do so without the UFC’s interference. Operating as a truly independent contractor.