Francis Ngannou never wanted to walk away from the UFC, but after nearly two years of negotiations, he felt as though he had no other choice.
It’s been nearly a year since UFC CEO Dana White announced that Ngannou was no longer part of the promotion despite sitting as the reigning heavyweight world champion. In the months that followed, Ngannou would sign a lucrative deal with the Professional Fighters League that gave him both financial security and the freedom to pursue other avenues of revenue.
Speaking with Shannon Sharpe on an episode of Club Shay Shay, the Cameroonian made it clear that his decision to leave was never one he wanted to make, but was ultimately the one he was forced to make.
“It was a decision that, if it was up to me, I wouldn’t have taken that decision,” Ngannou said. “The situation made me make that decision, but it wasn’t something that I was expecting or that I was thinking. I got to the point where I realized that for my best [interest], I had to make the right decision for myself and that was a good decision for myself.
He added, “I had a contract that I have no leverage in that contract. No power. Nobody can advocate for me.”
I got in the ring with a HEAVY HITTER 🥊 on @ClubShayShay
— shannon sharpe (@ShannonSharpe) December 6, 2023
Looking to improve things for himself and his fellow fighters, Francis Ngannou lobbied for healthcare and sponsorships, two things the UFC was likely never going to budge on. Aside from that, ‘The Predator’ also wanted someone to be assigned as an official advocate for fighters, giving a voice to those in the promotion who are often left voiceless.
Even that was too much for the UFC to accept.
“I’m a fighter and I believe fighters are the ones that made that company. Without a fighter there is not a promotion, there is not the UFC or any other fighting promotion. How about just giving fighters a little bit of a condition? And one thing that I said to advocate for the fighters, let’s get somebody to speak for the fighters. Somebody who will represent the fighters because I do believe sometimes [their] decision hurts fighters, but they didn’t mean to. But they’re seeing stuff from their perspective.
“If somebody was there to explain the fighter perspective, maybe they would have understood better and made a concession, make a good decision for everyone. That was my request.”
With Ngannou now the master of his own destiny, the MMA and boxing superstar established a fight promotion of his own, allowing him to work with any other promotion has a fighter interested in mixing it up whether it be in the cage or the ring.
“I don’t need a promoter,” Ngannou said. “I don’t need a promoter. GIMIK fight promotion. I can go promote with whoever has a fighter and wants to put on a fight. I don’t need a promotion.”
Francis Ngannou Lost Out on a Large Sponsorship Deal Because of the UFC
Sponsorships have been a point of contention for many years. Previously, fighters were allowed to seek out their own sponsorship deals to bolster their earnings with each fight. That was no longer the case once the UFC signed a deal with Reebok in 2014. Today, Venum supplies the UFC with all of their fight kits while Project Rock is the official footwear sponsor of the UFC.
The deal with Venum pays fighters X amount of dollars based on the number of fights they’ve had with the UFC, but the sum is often far less than what they would receive through direct sponsorship deals.
Thus far, fighters have received no compensation associated with the Project Rock deal.
“I lost a sponsorship for an amount of money that I never made fighting because of one of their sponsors,” Ngannou revealed. “So I’m in the position where I’m like, okay, I’m not making money. I can’t fight until you guys want me to fight and I have no rights. That contract gives me no right to claim that I have the right to fight two times a year minimum. There’s nothing.
“You could sit me there for two years and say, ‘Oh we’re looking. This doesn’t work. This didn’t work out.’ That’s not fair. That’s not right. You are taking everything away from me. All my rights. I’m exclusive. I’m supposedly an independent contractor, but I’m not because I think the word, independent contractor is just to not give me the benefits that employees have, like health insurance.
“Most of the time, we in this sport get to the point where we need surgery or something that we can’t afford. A lot of fighters still fight paycheck after paycheck. That’s why when we finish a fight, we go home, sit, and pray that they receive a call from the promotion to fight again to have money and by the time they fight, they’ve already spent the money from the last fight.”
Despite an ugly end to their relationship, Francis Ngannou is still more than willing to work with the UFC if it means making his long-awaited showdown with Jon Jones a reality.
“I’m in the PFL, but they can do the same thing they did with Floyd Mayweather [and Conor McGregor], but at this point, the PFL would need to be involved. I don’t know what they want to do, but I’m willing to as long as they can find a way. I’m willing to do that fight. Not to go back to the UFC, but just to fight Jon Jones.”
However, Dana White has already poured cold water on the possibility of his promotion working with the PFL to co-promote Ngannou vs. Jones, suggesting that Ngannou had his opportunity to sign on the dotted line and chose to go elsewhere.
Watch the full interview below: