In his own words, it seems Francis Ngannou has no doubt that he was right to leave the UFC.
UFC president Dana White announced on Saturday that contract negotiations between the promotion and Ngannou had essentially failed, and that the now-former UFC heavyweight champion was effectively released to pursue other opportunities. According to White, Ngannou felt that he was in a “good position” where he “could fight lesser opponents and make more money” elsewhere.
But to Ngannou, fighting lesser opponents was not what he wanted. He told Ariel Helwani that he requested a three-fight contract with no extension, sponsorships, health insurance and a fighter advocate. But most of all, Ngannou wanted freedom. And when most of those were rejected by the UFC, he left.
“They have said that I’m scared of fighting Jon Jones or somebody, which I don’t know where they came from with that one,” said Ngannou in a video uploaded to his official YouTube channel. “That sounds very ridiculous, in my opinion. With all due respect, I’ve been calling for this fight for over two years. I’ve been waiting for this fight forever. I’ve been fighting guys, even with one knee, with injuries. And now, why do I be scared of them? When I feel even more confident. No, I’m not scared. The only thing that I’m scared of is to be trapped. It’s not to lose my freedom, which I value very much.
“You guys know how the UFC contract can be,” continued Ngannou. “Restrictive and as an independent contractor, you don’t really have a say in that contract. You don’t have a right, so I can’t do that.”
One of the final comments White gave on the Ngannou situation was, “if you don’t want to be here, you don’t have to be here,” which the ‘Predator’ said was the furthest from the truth. He wanted to be in the UFC, but signing a restrictive contract yet again was out of the question.
“‘Anyone who doesn’t have to be here, doesn’t have to be here.’ You know that’s not true, right? You know how restrictive the UFC contract can be,” said Ngannou. “For a contract that’s supposedly for an independent contractor. So there’s not really a lot of things that you want or you can do when you are in that contract. They decide for you.
“I signed my last contract in December 2017,” continued Ngannou. “Even at the time, I knew it wasn’t a good contract, but I knew I had to earn my position, become a champion, have more value in order to negotiate a better deal for me. I needed to add more value to myself and that’s what I’ve been doing in the past five years, which is okay. I never really complained with that contract. No matter what happened, the only thing that I wanted is the right to deliver that contract, to terminate that contract as I should. And move on into the next one. I do believe that I have that right, at least. That’s called freedom.
“To be able to terminate a contract in order to start another one. And if the new one doesn’t suit your conditions, you’re also free not to sign without going into a bad blood [with the promotion]. That’s how I feel about it. It’s just unfortunate that we didn’t come to terms, which I wish we could’ve, but it is what it is. As an independent contractor, I have to look after myself. I have to do what’s right for me. And everyone out there should do the same for themselves.”
As for what happens next, Ngannou is excited to test free agency. For the Xtreme Couture fighter, a move from mixed martial arts to boxing is imminent.
Now that he is released, Ngannou hopes fights with Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder can come to fruition. And after that, he expects to return to MMA, where he says he is still the ‘best heavyweight in the world’.
“Free agency is something that not many fighters in their prime, at the very top has a chance to experience,” said Ngannou. “Now, I have it. I fought for it for the past two years. I have it and I really want to do a better use out of it. And remember, they’re going to be saying a lot of things. They’re going to be trying to bash me, to devalue me. But no matter what, you have to remember who the real king is. The best heavyweight in the world. I’m the best heavyweight in the world and I don’t care what they say out there. I’m the man.”
About the author: Kristen King is a writer for Bloody Elbow. She has covered combat sports since 2016. (full bio)