While the UFC has been typically known to have highly restrictive contracts for title holders, Francis Ngannou became the first in this era to walk away as the champion.
After not being happy with the UFC’s offers, the popular knockout artist will now test the open market with multiple lucrative opportunities likely available to him. Unsurprisingly, Dana White has already tried to change the narrative by claiming that Ngannou just doesn’t want to fight high level fighters anymore.
“I think Francis is at a place right now, where he doesn’t want to take a risk,” White said. “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.”
Former UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez wasn’t a fan of the disrespect showed, saying it’s hilarious for White to claim that Ngannou is afraid.
Ufc simply lost the bid for Francis , instead of admitting that , they go with the narrative the the Scariest mother fucker alive is Afraid to fight in the UFC hahhahahahhahahahhahahahhaa These jokes write themselves #PHSUnreal— Eddie Alvarez (@Ealvarezfight) January 16, 2023
“UFC simply lost the bid for Francis, instead of admitting that, they go with the narrative the the scariest motherf***** alive is afraid to fight in the UFC. Hahahahahahahahahahaha. These jokes write themselves,” Alvarez wrote on twitter.
“Nobody in the UFC is “afraid” of anyone. The men who fight there are there to fight the best... The UFC is afraid to pay fighters, this is the only reason people leave,” Alvarez also wrote on Instagram. “Fighters don’t give a f*** who the next opponent is, they do care about what the pay will be. Keep it real and just say, ‘We lost the bid, someone is paying more,’ and end it there.
“It’s counterintuitive to pay fighters large purses because they become less cooperative and more [independent]. The business works perfect when everyone is broke and begging to fight at the drop of a hat. Cooperation is key. Large purses disrupt their own business.”
Similar sentiments were shared by former UFC title contender Gray Maynard, and veteran referee turned MMA commentator, “Big” John McCarthy.
Simply put @francis_ngannou did not get released by the @ufc. He fought out his contract while still being the Heavyweight Champion. Make no mistake, Francis is in no way afraid of anyone fighting in the UFC. He is a man of extraordinary courage who stands for his beliefs— Big John McCarthy (@JohnMcCarthyMMA) January 17, 2023
You want more pay. “Scared to fight”. Want a better contract. “Scared to fight”. Want to test free agency. “Scared to fight”……. Shut up and take whatever they give you. “Loves to fight. Scary match up for anyone” https://t.co/3rTy30GoOA— Gray Maynard (@GrayMaynard) January 16, 2023
Another former champion in Daniel Cormier also disagreed with White’s narrative, saying he would’ve “fought Jon Jones on any day of the week.”
As the four MMA staples have alluded to, it’s comical to accuse “the baddest man on the planet” of being afraid to fight at a high level. Apart from destroying multiple UFC champions like Stipe Miocic, Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos, he also beat one half of the current vacant title fight while injured, and has been asking to fight Jon Jones for over a year.
Interestingly enough, in 2021, White insisted it was Jones that was afraid of Ngannou, and that they could book the fight immediately if he “really wanted to fight.”
Dana White (@danawhite) says that after seeing Francis Ngannou's performance, Jon Jones should "move to 185". He continued that if Jones is serious, the fight with Ngannou can be made tonight. #UFC260— Cageside Press (@Cagesidepress) March 28, 2021
Full Interview: https://t.co/B7knBuYHMI pic.twitter.com/mUFrsUkttf
Now, it’s the opposite. So what changed?
Well, as Alvarez noted, it’s all about the money. For over a decade now, Dana White’s go to move against those trying to negotiate for better terms is to question their character and claim that they simply “don’t want to fight.”
Jones was having contract issues with the UFC then, but has since agreed to a new eight-fight deal. Predictably, in Dana White terms, he has recently been upgraded to not afraid and “ready to fight” status.
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)