UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou could be heading toward a contract impasse with the UFC.
Ngannou is set to put his title on the line for the first time as champion when he takes on former teammate Ciryl Gane in the main event of UFC 270 on January 22, but there’s more than just the championship at stake.
The bout also represents the final fight on Ngannou’s current UFC deal. If he loses the belt, he will have the option to explore free agency in a bid to secure the best deal for himself. However, if he successfully retains his title his contract is set to be automatically extended.
It’s that automatic extension that had Ngannou voicing his frustration ahead of his title matchup, as he told ESPN in an interview this week.
“The UFC contract is very tricky,” Ngannou explained.
“That’s why you sign a (five-year) contract and you find yourself after four years still dealing with that, even though you have been active.
“Contractually, it means that I have executed the eight fights that were on my contract.
“The championship clause, people don’t understand that in the contract, (it) is optional because it says if at the end of the contract, if you’re the champion, you’re extended for three fights or one year. So that all made me think it’s optional.”
Ngannou has now revealed his requirements in order to put pen to paper on a new UFC deal – and they’re conditions that may not prove amenable to the UFC brass.
In short, he wants more money to fight in the octagon, plus he wants the freedom to also compete as a professional boxer.
“No, I will not fight for $500,000, $600,000 anymore,” he stated.
“I mean, it’s over. It’s over. I just did this. I took this fight for a personal reason, and because I want to make sure that regardless, even if it’s unfair, I have been wrongly treated, I can make my case to say I have completed the eight fights. But no.”
However, rather than asking for a parting of the ways with the UFC, Ngannou said he wanted to make his foray into boxing in association with the UFC, rather than separate from the organisation.
“We’ve been having this discussion for a year, and it seems like they were OK with it,” he suggested.
“Whatever you’re doing, whatever the event is, whether it’s boxing, when the UFC is involved, it’s just going to make it bigger. That’s not questionable.
“So yes, if I want to box, I would like the UFC to be involved.”
There has been a precedent, of course. Conor McGregor received the green light from the UFC to box Floyd Mayweather in a megabucks matchup, but the Irishman is the biggest star in the sport and, perhaps crucially, he didn’t hold a UFC championship at the time. If Ngannou retains his title later this month, that may actually make the UFC more likely to push back on the idea to protect the prestige of their title.
Ngannou is clearly frustrated with his current situation, but it seems he isn’t frustrated enough to want to cut ties with the UFC. Indeed, “The Predator” met with UFC president Dana White and laid out his concerns, but also stated that he isn’t upset about his predicament.
Speaking about the meeting, Ngannou said, “It went pretty well.
“At this point, I’m not upset. I’m kind of chill about everything.
“I went to him to greet him and we wished each other happy holidays, and I told him my frustration.
“I expressed to him that I’d like to stay in the UFC, but I don’t feel like the UFC wants me to stay. I don’t feel like I have a promoter anymore.
“I won a championship fight, the next thing that was coming my way was a way to stand me off everything. I didn’t feel I was promoted.
“Maybe I’m wrong about that, but I didn’t see anything compared to what happens to different fighters.”