Francis Ngannou shocked the combat sports world when he opted to leave the UFC while holding the company’s heavyweight championship.
Dana White announced Ngannou’s sudden release following the completion of his contract in January.
Ngannou first won the belt with the knockout of Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 in March of 2021. He then only defended it one time, a decision victory over Ciryl Gane at UFC 270 in January of 2022.
The Cameroonian superstar dealt with injuries and a contract dispute throughout his title reign. It was the latter than eventually led him to look elsewhere.
Since that time, however, Ngannou’s options have not been as plentiful as some expected. He’s been linked the PFL, ONE Championship, and even big-name boxing matches. But none of those options have evolved into actual fights.
Bare Knuckle FC president Dave Feldman says that this is likely due to Ngannou’s financial demands.
“Francis Ngannou, he’s somebody we’ve certainly reached out to,” Feldman said. “We’ve reached out to him, we’ve reached out to his team, and we just feel like he’s asking for unrealistic money, and we’re not willing to pay that kind of money for him.”
ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sidyodtong also ruled out signing Ngannou.
“I met with Francis for almost three hours. I didn’t feel Francis and I were fully aligned on non-financial matters,” Sidyodtong said per Spinnin Backfist.
Fans have since criticized Ngannou. Many state that he should return to the UFC and should have taken the contract they offered him.
Though influencer turned boxer Jake Paul doesn’t seem to agree with them.
Funny how promoters always try to devalue fighters for their own benefit / narrative. Francis is the best heavyweight MMA fighter in the world and he deserves to be treated as such. https://t.co/VBA5dnzQ9h
— Jake Paul (@jakepaul) May 2, 2023
“Funny how promoters always try to devalue fighters for their own benefit/narrative. Francis is the best heavyweight MMA fighter in the world and he deserves to be treated as such,” Paul said in a tweet.
Ngannou is the first big-name MMA fighter since Demetrious Johnson, who signed with ONE, to leave the UFC while on top.
And where he ends up next could dictate the future of MMA industry when it comes to paying fighters.