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Hearn: UFC doesn’t want fighters to get ‘too big,’ but Ngannou will ‘almost certainly’ re-sign

Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn shares his opinion on the current contract situation of UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou.

Francis Ngannou celebrates his first successful title defense at UFC 270 against Ciryl Gane.
Francis Ngannou celebrates his first successful title defense at UFC 270 against Ciryl Gane.
Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Francis Ngannou’s future with the UFC remains hanging in the balance. After a successful maiden title defense at UFC 270, there still isn’t any word on whether or not he will re-sign with the organization. “The Predator,” however, will take at least nine months off after he undergoes knee surgery in March.

Ngannou’s contract situation has been a hot topic of discussion within the combat sports and prizefighting circles, and there have been differing opinions. Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, for one, believes the two parties will eventually sort things out.

“Ultimately, now, during that period, the pressure’s on the UFC to go to Francis Ngannou and do a new deal. And they’ll significantly overpay him from where he was at,” Hearn told Ariel Helwani in his recent guesting on The MMA Hour.

“But it comes down to the sort of feeling of the fighter to say, ‘I feel like I’ve been almost mistreated so I don’t wanna be here anymore.’ But I would be shocked if they didn’t do a new deal with Francis Ngannou. I would say it’s an almost certainty that they will (by) the time it all plays out.”

Unlike his more veteran contemporaries like Bob Arum and UFC president Dana White, Hearn looks at fight promotion much differently. From that perspective, he shared what he thinks is the biggest difference between boxing and MMA, particularly for UFC fighters.

“Every fighter that I represent is my boss,” Hearn explained. “Whether they’re a kid debuting in their first fight at 19, I work for the fighter. That’s my mentality. The old-school, they couldn’t say it. If you said to Bob Arum, ‘Tell me that Terrence Crawford’s your boss.’ He couldn’t say it.

“For UFC, where they’ve been very smart is by ‘It’s such an honor to get a UFC deal.’ You see these kids coming out of Bellator or Cage Warriors or wherever it is. But the thought of getting a UFC contract is everything.

“I feel in the UFC, they don’t want you to get too big. And when you do — I almost used to laugh at Conor because I could just imagine just the disruption that he was causing in that organization. Because that’s not really the name of the game.

“We don’t want a start that is bigger in the UFC. Conor McGregor became bigger than the UFC, and that’s a nightmare for those guys.”

Hearn’s approach on fighter pay is also vastly different compared to what he refers to as a “historic model” in fight promotion.

“In boxing, we work with our bigger fighters really on an 80-20 (revenue) split (in favor of the fighters),” he explained. “That 20 (percent) becomes smaller and smaller as the fighter gets bigger and bigger. Because ultimately, how can you justify if a fighter’s making $50 million, you’re making $10 million? On one fight? That’s a lot of money.

“These guys are the ones putting their health on the line, their life on the line to go in there… But it’s a historic model that I guess will change. And there’ll be more pressure on the organization as time goes by to adjust that, especially with the voice and noise of someone like Jake Paul.