Francis Ngannou is a free man. The most recent UFC heavyweight champion was sensationally released from the company after he and the promotion refused to agree on a new contract.
It wasn’t surprising that Ngannou could not come to terms with the UFC. For the past few years he has been extremely vocal about his dissatisfaction over his contract. And, according to the Predator, it wasn’t because of the amount of dollars in the deal, but rather the restrictions placed on what work he could do outside of the Octagon.
Ngannou has long stated his wishes to compete in boxing, alongside MMA, with a big money fight with Tyson Fury often being teased.
Previously, Ngannou revealed he had turned down millions of dollars and a new UFC contract because of the limitations such a deal would put on his independence.
What was surprising is that the UFC let Ngannou go without, seemingly, much of a fight. The promotion is famed for pettiness when it comes to exits and has been known to block fighters from leaving the promotion (even if they are retired from MMA).
Ngannou’s coach Eric Nicksick appeared on The MMA Hour this week to share some behind-the-scenes knowledge on the situation.
He told Ariel Helwani that things were looking good between Ngannou and the UFC after a dinner meeting. However, he revealed, his fighter decided he just couldn’t sign on the dotted line afterwards.
“We met with Dana [White], and Hunter [Campbell], after [UFC 270] and had a great dinner,” said Nicksick. “Things were going in the right direction, I felt. Got in the car and Francis looks over at me and says, ‘If I sign this deal, without making any change, without doing all of the things I said I was gonna do, I’m a sellout. And I refuse to do that. I have a stance where I can make a difference.’”
With Helwani, Nicksick also rebuffed White’s suggestion that Ngannou wanted out of his deal because he was afraid of the competition he might face in the Octagon. This is a pretty standard rejoinder from White.
“He fought the next up-and-coming Ciryl Gane. The phenom, on one fucking leg,” remarked Nicksick, who added that he and his team advised against that. “You mean to tell me that Francis is scared? He’s not scared of anybody. He’s doing what he feels was right for him.”
Where Ngannou lands is anyone’s guess. Though, wherever he fights next it seems he’ll be doing so on his terms.
About the author: Tim Bissell is a writer, editor and deputy site manager for Bloody Elbow. He has covered combat sports since 2015. Tim covers news and events and has also written longform and investigative pieces. (full bio)