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UFC 285 Countdown: Where’s Francis Ngannou?

The UFC had more than 47 minutes to talk about the lead up to their big heavyweight title fight this Saturday, and skated around the most interesting part of the drama the whole time.

The UFC 285 Countdown video opens with footage from the career of Jon Jones. Under the video are the voices of Max Kellerman, Dana White, Joe Rogan, Jon Anik, and Dominick Cruz among others, all signing the praises of the former UFC light heavyweight champion. The voiceover then mentions that on “March 4, Jones will compete for the vacant heavyweight crown.” The next 45 minutes of promo material for Saturday’s pay-per-view card goes in depth on all the ins, outs, ups and downs of this coming Saturday’s epic battle against Ciryl Gane.

Well, all except one. It never mentions why that title happens to be vacant.

It’s just the latest chapter for the UFC in a long history of petty erasure, as the promotion looks to constantly update and re-write its own history.

If Jones was facing someone other than Ciryl Gane at UFC 285, the absence of the former heavyweight champion—Francis Ngannou—from the video could almost be explained away with a shrug and a knowing grin. Given that Gane just lost to Ngannou in a heavyweight title unification bout in February 2022, however, erasing the ex-champ from the UFC 285 buildup required that much extra targeted skullduggery.

The UFC spent nearly two minutes speaking about—and showing—Gane’s interim title-winning victory over Derrick Lewis. They then spent a full 30 seconds reviewing his failure to unify those titles against Ngannou. Not once during any of even that brief section does the promotion mention the name of the man (Francis Ngannou) who retained his heavyweight title that night in Anaheim.

I understand the top brass might feel scorned after the ‘Predator’ left the promotion as a free agent when he and the Endeavor-owned organization couldn’t come to terms on a contract, but disagreements like that should be a standard part of doing business. That the UFC got all up in its feelings about him leaving to the point where they’d refuse to acknowledge any part of his legacy or that actually fairly interesting and dramatic story that plays into the reason this fight is even happening at all doesn’t make that fact go away. But, it makes the UFC look bitter and trifling.

Near the end of the promo for Saturday’s contest between Jones and Gane, the narrator mentions the fight is for the “undisputed” heavyweight title. Right now, no matter who ends up holding the belt aloft in the Octagon by the end of the night, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

UFC 285 takes place Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card streams on ESPN+ pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and early prelims on ESPN+.

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