Francis Ngannou has decided to forgo a fight with Jon Jones inside the Octagon – instead leaving the UFC to test free agency, vacating the heavyweight title. And UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling believes that may have been a mistake. Ngannou and the UFC had long been at odds with one another in contract discussions, with neither side being able to come to an agreement on a new deal.
It was heavily indicated that a new deal would begin with a fight between “The Predator” and ex-light heavyweight king Jon Jones. Although it was a highly-anticipated matchup, a deal simply wasn’t able to get done. Now, the UFC heavyweight title has been vacated, and Jon Jones will compete against Ciryl Gane for the title while Ngannou goes out and tests the free agency market, plotting his next move.
Aljamain Sterling Questions Ngannou’s UFC Exit
Recently, the UFC’s 135-pound champion Aljamain Sterling was a guest on “The MMA Hour” and offered his thoughts on the situation between Ngannou and the UFC. Sterling admits that he believes Ngannou should’ve used a fight with Jon Jones to elevate his stardom before exiting the promotion and testing the market.
“If I’m being honest I think both sides of the party messed up,” Aljamain Sterling said. “I think Francis needs the UFC in regards to continuing his rise into the mainstream. People know who he is, but in order for him to get to that next level, he beats a guy like Jon Jones – that’s undeniable. He goes out, he’s a free agent – how much money is he going to really generate from these other promotions?
“I don’t know. I don’t have any inside information to know what that looks like. Can he get the Tyson Fury fight? If he does that good for him, because I think that’s going to do huge numbers. Maybe. Because maybe some people think he doesn’t have a chance. But if it’s the small gloves like they were teasing, that’s a very interesting boxing fight.
“So, I look at it like that, I look at the UFC – you let the baddest man on the planet walk over what? Because the guy wants to do a boxing fight while he’s still under contract? I mean, Conor did it, why can’t Francis do it? And I don’t know if that’s the reason why they didn’t agree, I’m sure there’s a bunch of things we didn’t see behind closed doors.”
Now, Jon Jones will headline UFC 285 on March 4 against Ciryl Gane for the vacant heavyweight strap. It will be Jones’ first fight in three years since last competing inside the Octagon. As for Gane, this will be his second opportunity at UFC gold, as he was defeated by Ngannou in a title fight back in January of last year.