At UFC 270 last weekend, Ngannou returned to the Octagon for the first time since last March with a cloud of uncertainty looming large over his future. A defeat could have spelled the end for his time in the UFC and sent him into free agency.
Despite successfully defeating former teammate Ciryl Gane and retaining his belt, that cloud of uncertainty has become even greyer and filled with even more questions, some of which have now rained down on the MMA community in a recent interview.
Ngannou: UFC Holds Fighters In “Captivity”
Since the opening pay-per-view of the year, the promotion has been criticized for a number of reasons. First and foremost was Dana White’s absence from both the Octagon after the main event and the post-fight press conference.
While he’d suggested a “good conversation” had taken place between himself and Ngannou prior to the event, White’s actions at its culmination firmly suggest all is certainly not well.
The UFC was also under flak after the purses for fighters competing at UFC 270 were disclosed. The number, later confirmed by Ngannou, revealed “The Predator” walked away with $600,000, a sum that has left some fans and pundits bemused.
But as his manager Marquel Martin has previously stated, Ngannou says it’s not about the money. If it was, the Cameroonian claims he’s had plenty of offers with large totals that he could have accepted.
“Even when they’re trying to reach out for a deal, they came out with a good amount of money, but at this point, that doesn’t even matter. I left all that down on the table,” Ngannou told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “I’m taking my $600,000, I’m going there, I’m doing this and I’m winning everything. I left a lot more on the table. Overall, I’ve been leaving a lot of money on the table even since the Stipe (Miocic) fight. By now, I might be down $7 million that I left on the table, but I’m still happy with my $600,000, because I still fight for what I care for.”
While he admitted the offers were tempting, Ngannou insisted that no amount of remuneration could fix his battered and bruised relationship with the promotion. In the eyes of the heavyweight king, fighting in the UFC is a form of captivity, a sentiment he also shared post-fight at the weekend when he claimed he doesn’t feel like “a free man.”
Like others have in the past, the Cameroonian brought up the need for healthcare insurance and also pleaded for contracts to be clearer in terms of whether athletes are employees or independent contractors.
“The money was tempting, it was good, but this is not just about money. Just money cannot fix this situation,” added Ngannou. “I don’t believe that. The term of the contract, everything that they put into, they hold you in captivity. You can’t do anything. You have no rights.”
“The contract is one-sided, although you still don’t have nothing. You don’t even have health insurance, even while you’re putting your body on the line to provide to put on the show.
“You’re risking everything. There’s a lot of things. We have no insurance. Nothing. No guarantee, which I understand as an independent contractor, but treat me as such, if I am. Whether I’m going to be an employee or an independent contractor, make it very clear in the contract. It’s very mixed up. That’s probably the thing that I hated most about this, how they hold all the cards, the power to just destroy you. As soon as you don’t say yes, they just take you down. There’s something wrong with me with those kind of things, that I just can’t take it,” concluded Ngannou. (h/t Fox Sports)
With his desire for boxing to become a possibility in the near future, it appears there are a number of areas the two parties will have to work out before Ngannou signs on any dotted line again.
It’s anyone’s guess what happens in the coming months, but it appears to be becoming more and more likely that we’ve seen Ngannou throw hands in the Octagon for the final time.
If he does choose to sit out the remainder of his contract, perhaps his long-desired transition to boxing will await him in 2023, and maybe even a date in the ring with “The Gypsy King” Tyson Fury.
What do you make of Francis Ngannou’s ongoing contractual dispute with the UFC?