The heart of Francis Ngannou’s dispute with the UFC may have been focused on boxing, contract limits, and (as always) money, but there were a few other aspects to the negotiations that appear to have informed the fighter’s decision to leave the world’s largest MMA promotion.
The Xtreme Couture talent came to the bargaining table hoping to gauge the UFC’s interest in providing a healthcare plan for the athletes on their roster, as well as allowing the placement of a “fighter advocate” in company board meetings. Those ideas accompanied another longtime sore sport for athletes in the Endeavor-owned promotion: improved sponsorship rights. The UFC notoriously restricted the ability for fighters to court outside sponsorship in 2014 with the introduction of Reebok uniforms and the removal of sponsor banners from corners.
“They say, ‘No, we don’t do business like that,’ Ngannou recalled of his negotiations in a recent interview. “They say, ‘Yes, [you] can pay your health insurance?’ and all that. I’m like, ‘Yes, I can pay my health insurance. At this point health insurance for me is not a problem. But, how about those guys that are at the bottom? Make $10k + $10k or, lost the fight, made $10k? They can’t really afford that health insurance.’ And I have been there. So, it’s something that I still carry in my heart.”
“I knew it couldn’t happen, but I asked.”
Former rival and two-time heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic seems sympathetic to Ngannou’s cause. The 40-year-old professional firefighter has had his own string of difficult negotiations with the UFC, and in an interview with the MMA Hour admitted that he feels the promotion is a long way away from the kinds of changes the Cameroonian-born Frenchman was calling for.
“I get it,” Miocic said. “I mean, it’s going to be a long time before any of that happens—[Ngannou was] trying to move [the sport] in the right direction, which is great, but it’s going to be a long time before any of that happens.”
For his part, Miocic wishes that Ngannou had been able to come to an agreement with the UFC so that he and the ‘Predator’ could have a chance to face off for a third time inside the Octagon. Instead, the Strong Style fighter hopes to find himself at the front of the line for a title shot after Jon Jones and Ciryl Gane face off for the vacated belt in March. And maybe, just possibly, face off against Ngannou in the boxing ring one day instead.
“That’d be fantastic [to box Ngannou],” Miocic responded when asked about the possibility. “Hell yeah, I love boxing.”