Francis Ngannou rejected record UFC heavyweight contract
LAS VEGAS – Francis Ngannou turned down a historic offer according to UFC president Dana White.
On Saturday, it was announced that the dispute in negotiations between the UFC and its heavyweight champion had ended. Ngannou turned down the UFC’s offer of a contract renewal, White said, and gave up his heavyweight title for the chance to become arguably the biggest free agent in combat sports.
And according to White, Ngannou also left a lot of money on the table.
“We offered Francis a deal that would have made him the highest-paid heavyweight in the history of the company — more than (Brock) Lesnar, more than anybody — and he turned the deal down,” White told reporters at the UFC Fight Night. 217 press conference after the war.
“We get to this point and I’ve told you this before, if you don’t want to be here, you don’t have to be here. I think Francis is in a place right now where he doesn’t want to take too many risks. He feels he is in a good position where he can fight smaller opponents and make more money.
“So we’ll let him do it. We will release him for his contract. We will give up our right to the match, and he can go and do whatever he wants. Here we are.”
Ngannou can now sign with any other promotion and is officially a free agent. The Cameroon native has yet to speak publicly about the decision, but White reckons he made it by wanting to fight fewer opponents – and not MMA great Jon Jones, who will be making his heavyweight debut on March 4 at UFC 285 in Las Vegas for the vacant title. against former interim champion Cyril Gane.
“I think you’re looking at this, you’re going to fight maybe the greatest fighter of all time, you’re going to be the highest paid heavyweight ever in UFC history, or you think there’s more money to fight someone who’s not the greatest of all time, someone who’s a lesser opponent,” White said. “You have to ask Francis that question, but in my opinion it is what it is.
“… The guy weighed over 300 pounds, just had knee surgery, hasn’t had a real training camp. And I think that probably has a lot to do with it as far as Francis is concerned. He doesn’t know what will happen to his knee. He’s not getting any younger. I don’t even think he would be ready for March.
“We can’t continue to be divided and not reach an agreement with this guy. We did everything we could to make this fight happen, but he has in mind that there are bigger opportunities outside of the UFC with lesser opponents.”
Ngannou leaves the promotion with a lot of momentum. He is on a six-fight winning streak and has not lost since July 2018. He knocked out Stipe Miocic, the most successful heavyweight in UFC history, to become champion in March 2021, then ended his defense first title shot when he defeated Gane by unanimous decision at UFC 270 in January 2022.
The 36-year-old has defeated many other notable names under the UFC banner, including Alistair Overeem, Cain Velasquez, Junior Dos Santos and Curtis Blaydes.
Gallery Photos: Francis Ngannou over the years View 49 photos