Shortly after an earlier botched leak spoiling the match up, Dana White has officially announced that Jon Jones will fight Ciryl Gane for the vacant heavyweight title at UFC 285.
“This is for the official heavyweight title,” White said about Jones vs Gane.
The UFC couldn’t come to terms with Francis Ngannou, who will now be the first from this era to walk away from the UFC as champion.
“We offered a deal to Francis that would’ve made him the highest paid heavyweight in the history of the company, more than Lesnar, more than everybody. And he turned the deal down,” White claimed.
“We’re going to release him from his contract, give up our right to match,” White said. “He can go wherever he wants, do whatever he wants.”
White unsurprisingly took jabs at Ngannou as well, using his old “doesn’t want to fight” line about people who negotiate for more money.
“I think Francis is at a place right now, where he doesn’t want to take a risk,” White said about Ngannou. “He feels like he can fight lesser opponents and make more money.
“The guy weighs over 300 lbs, just had knee surgery, hasn’t had a real training camp. I think that probably has a lot to do with it. He doesn’t know what’s going to happen with his knee, he’s not getting younger,” White said. “It’s not like this is something that has never happened before. There’s been other guys that have come to us and said I don’t want to compete at this level anymore.”
White specifically mentioned Brock Lesnar, and how Ngannou was offered the highest ever “heavyweight” purse. It’s worth noting how Lesnar’s previous purses were made public through the UFC antitrust lawsuit, and it isn’t exactly a high figure, especially in 2023. As a champion in 2011, he would’ve made $1.65 million plus his base purse, which was $400,000 at UFC 116. As a non-champion in his final bout in 2016, Lesnar’s base purse was $2.5 million, with a $5.5 million side deal, according to BE’s business expert John Nash.
As White noted, there has been a couple of fighters outside heavyweight with bigger purses. The question also would be if being paid “more than Lesnar” is guaranteed, or only for a Jones bout, which would likely be the biggest drawing fight the UFC can put on right now. Ngannou seems to want to look towards boxing as well, where fighters earn far more than the sub-20 percent revenue share UFC gives.
With White’s ludicrous claims after negotiations, Ngannou now joins Georges St-Pierre, Jon Jones, Cris Cyborg, and Dustin Poirier in a hilariously long list of killers and talented fighters that all just don’t want to... fight.
About the author: Anton Tabuena is the Managing Editor for Bloody Elbow. He’s been covering MMA and combat sports since 2009, and has also fought in MMA, Muay Thai and kickboxing. (full bio)