Francis Ngannou unified the UFC heavyweight title this weekend with an impressive performance over his former training partner Ciryl Gane. After his win Ngannou saw the belt put around his waist by UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard, not company president Dana White.
White, who usually handles that part of the post-fight ceremony, was there to put a belt on Deiveson Figueiredo during the co-main event. White’s absence from Ngannou’s crowning might be connected with the contentious relationship between Ngannou and the UFC.
Ngannou has been very vocal in stating that he believes he is underpaid and that he would like to explore options outside of the Octagon. On Monday’s The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, Ngannou talked at length about his desire change the terms of his UFC contract and what that process has cost him so far.
“I just want to be free,” Ngannou said (ht MMA Fighting). “We are supposedly independent contractors. [An] independent contractor is technically a free person. That’s the reason why they need some adjustments in that contract. That’s what I’ve been fighting for.
“The term of the contract, everything that they put into, they hold you in captivity. You can’t do anything. You have no rights. The contract is one-sided, although you still don’t have nothing. You don’t even have health insurance, even while you’re putting your body on the line to provide to put on the show.
“You’re risking everything. There’s a lot of things. We have no insurance. Nothing. No guarantee, which I understand as an independent contractor, but treat me as such, if I am. Whether I’m going to be an employee or an independent contractor, make it very clear in the contract. It’s very mixed up.”
Ngannou added that he “just can’t take it” anymore, when it comes to how much power the UFC holds over individual fighters. Ngannou also said that the UFC have been trying to get him to sign a multi-fight contract for a while now.
Ngannou said the UFC’s offer included a pay increase, but came short in allowing him to operate more independently.
“Just money cannot fix this situation. I don’t believe that,” he said.
“Even when they’re trying to reach out for a deal, they came out with a good amount of money, but at this point that doesn’t even matter,” Ngannou continued. “I left all that down on the table. I’m taking my $600,000, I’m going there, I’m doing this and I’m winning everything.
“I left a lot more on the table. Overall, I’ve been leaving a lot of money on the table even since the Stipe fight. By now, I might be down $7 million that I left on the table, but I’m still happy with my $600,000, because I still fight for what I care for. This is the thing. Freedom doesn’t work with money. You give up one for one. Whether you want freedom, whether you want money. You give up one to gain one.”
Ngannou was later asked if he feared that the UFC might take away his title, if the relationship between him and the company further deteriorated. He scoffed at that idea and made it clear that he didn’t see that as anything to worry about.
“A the end of the day, it’s just a belt. As soon as they take the belt away, I’m a free agent. This belt will not make a champion. With or without it, I’m still a champion. Let’s be clear about that. Nothing will change my status about being a champion.”