Francis Ngannou said he asked many things from the UFC during a long period of contract negotiations. But the former UFC heavyweight champion said he ultimately decided the UFC’s offer didn’t give him enough freedom.
In an interview Tuesday on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, Ngannou said he asked for many things from the UFC, including a three-fight deal, no renewal clauses on promotions, and even health insurance for all fighters. Most of the requests went unfulfilled and Ngannou is now a free agent.
“I’m not free in this contract,” Ngannou said. “In this contract, I am not an independent contractor. In this contract I have no rights, I have no power. I’m giving you all power, and I’ve seen in the past how you guys can use that energy.”
UFC President Dana White said last Saturday that the promotion released Ngannou, including giving up an exclusive negotiation window and a year-long matching rights clause, and stripped him of the heavyweight title. Ngannou denies this characterization, saying his contract with the UFC expired in early to mid-December and he is already a free agent.
Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones will face Ciryl Gane for the now vacant Heavyweight title at UFC 285 on March 4 in Las Vegas.
White also said at a weekend news conference that Ngannou chose to get more money to face less competition. Ngannou said more money was one of the things he was looking for, but scoffed at the “less competition” narrative. Ngannou said he wants to compete in boxing, possibly against top stars like Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua.
“Maybe Tyson Fury is a lesser opponent for Dana White,” Ngannou said.
Entering negotiations with the UFC, Ngannou said he asked for promotions for all fighters to receive sponsorship money and medical insurance in the cage. He also wanted an athlete advocate positioned to help fighters. Despite knowing these were far-fetched terms, the Cameroon-born fighter said he believes he must at least try, knowing he can pay for his own health insurance at this point in his career.
“How about the boys down there?” said Ngannou. “They can’t really afford that health insurance. I was there, so I still carry it in my heart.”
Ngannou, 36, said the UFC accepts the idea of a three-way contract. Ngannou said he thinks he can wrap up those fights in 15 months or less with hopes of fighting Jones, heavyweight big Stipe Miocic and then maybe Jones again to seal the deal. The sticking point, sources said, was that the UFC would not waive its year-long matching rights clause or exclusive negotiation window after the contract term. Both are included in all UFC contracts.
“I asked for many things, which doesn’t mean I expected all those things,” Ngannou said. “But I was expecting one or two of those things.”
White said what the UFC was offering Ngannou would make him the highest-paid heavyweight in UFC history. Ngannou said Tuesday he would have made about $8 million for a fight against Jones, which is reportedly on the order of what Brock Lesnar received for the fight at UFC 200. Ngannou said he felt the UFC had a one-way street on thoughts regarding negotiations, saying he felt “get slapped in the face by money” and had other considerations as well.
Ngannou said he has no set plan for what’s next but would love to box and return to MMA at some point. He said he would like to fight as early as July. At the moment, he said, he’s drawn interest mostly from MMA action. Ngannou said he’s also currently representing himself. He wouldn’t rule out a return to the UFC in the future, saying he “never really envisioned” removing himself from the UFC in the first place.
“I think I just need some respect,” Ngannou said. “At least more respect. It’s very important. I need some respect. I need some freedom. I need to feel like a man. Own my freedom, control my destiny. Decide what I’m going to do. I don’t want someone who’s for decides me.”