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Hot Tweets: Francis Ngannou’s contract situation, Henry Cejudo’s snub, and bold predictions for 2022

Francis Ngannou
Francis Ngannou
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

We. Are. Back!

It’s been a long time fight fans, four weeks to be precise, but with the UFC’s return to action this weekend so too returns the Hot Tweets, and all the glorious takes that come with it. This week’s topics of discussion are UFC Vegas 46, Henry Cejudo, Francis Ngannou, and some prognosticating for MMA in 2022. Let’s get down to business.

UFC Vegas 46

For those of you who are bafflingly out of the loop, tonight, Giga Chikadze will look to establish himself as the next featherweight contender (after Max Holloway has his day) when he takes on Calvin Kattar in the main event of UFC Vegas 46. It’s a damn good fight and one that I’m of two minds about.

My first thought when considering this is that for all the hype that Chikadze picked up after styling on Edson Barboza in his last bout, there are still some serious questions about Giga. It’s not that long ago that Chikadze was scraping out wins over guys like Jamall Emmers and Brandon Davis. Even his win over Barboza, and undeniably good victory, is one that may well look worse in hindsight as Barboza is on the downside of his career and has lost six of his last 10 bouts. When Chikadze faces Kattar tonight, it will be the best opponent he’s ever fought in the UFC, and one who is tougher than a well-done coffin nail. That’s exactly the kind of fighter that could trip up an opponent who is clearly feeling himself and, given his comments about wanting to step in to fight Alexander Volkanovski, is perhaps looking past Kattar.

But on the other hand, it really feels like the style-matchup lines up perfectly for Chikadze here. Kattar is a scrapper and a decent boxer, but he is overly reliant on his chin, basically only boxes, and he rarely wrestles. Chikadze has a much more diverse set of skills and his kicking game is going to allow him to be extremely dangerous while staying outside of Kattar’s boxing range. Simply put, to win I think Kattar needs to ugly this fight up and I don’t know that he can do that. In the end, I’ll go with Chikadze to take a clear decision over Kattar tonight, one of those fights where we know the outcome very early on but Kattar is too stubborn and too durable for Chikadze to put him away.

Henry Cejudo’s situation

ICYMI: Henry Cejudo wanted to step in on short-notice to fight Alexander Volkanovski when Max Holloway was forced out. Instead, the UFC went for The Korean Zombie with Dana White essentially telling Cejudo, “You can’t retire and then decide you want to fight for a different belt” which Cejudo called shenanigans on.

I almost never agree with Dana White so I guess I might as well go ahead and get my one time for 2022 out of the way early: White is almost entirely correct here. I say White is “almost entirely correct” because the actual words he said were objectively false. Georges St-Pierre did, in fact, retire and then return by jumping up a weight division to challenge the champion. The caveat here though is that there’s a silent “for Henry Cejudo” at the end of White’s statement, not unlike the silent “b” at the end of “dumb”.

Cejudo is never going to get a featherweight title shot and that’s entirely reasonable from Dana White’s perspective. Why would he want another GSP situation where Cejudo could come up, win the belt, and then leave again? That doesn’t help the UFC promotionally and, unlike with GSP, Cejudo doesn’t even drive PPV sales. There is literally no upside. Sure, Cejudo can say he will defend the title but Cejudo has said all sorts of things. Cejudo was going to save the flyweight division - he fought a gassed up T.J. Dillashaw and then bounced. Then he was going to simply reign at 135 after winning the title - instead he fought a well-passed his prime Dominick Cruz and then retired. Why on Earth would anyone believe him about a featherweight title shot?

If Henry Cejudo genuinely wanted to fight for the featherweight belt, to have and to defend it, he would return to the sport full-time and take on a top-5 featherweight. That would show a willingness to compete that would assuage any concerns over Cejudo simply trying to be an opportunist and Dana White would certainly allow him to do that. But so long as Cejudo insists on not putting any skin in the game, he will be forever stonewalled and rightly so. Volkanovski doesn’t care about the fight, the fans don’t care about the fight beyond a passing fancy, and the UFC certainly doesn’t care about the fight. Give people a reason to care, Henry, other than continually (and wrongly) claiming you are the greatest combat sports athlete of all-time.

Francis Ngannou’s contract situation

Next weekend, UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou will defend his title for the first time against former teammate and training partner Ciryl Gane. It’s an incredibly interesting matchup (which we’ll talk more about next week) not the least of which is because of Ngannou’s contract situation heading into the bout.

His fight at UFC 270 will be the final fight on Ngannou’s current UFC contract and the champion has made it clear that he will not re-sign with the UFC unless certain provisions are made in his next contract, specifically, an allowance for boxing endeavors. Given the UFC’s track record, this seems like something the organization will not go for which creates two possible scenarios:

  1. Ngannou loses. This is pretty straightforward, if Ngannou loses, his contract is over and he can do whatever he pleases, including pursuing boxing bouts or signing with other MMA organizations.
  2. Ngannou wins. This is where things get wonky. If Ngannou wins and refuses to re-sign with the UFC, the “champion’s clause” of his contract will come into effect. The language of the clause can vary from fighter to fighter but in essence the clause will re-up Ngannou’s current contract for some number of fights or years, whichever comes first. Meaning that Ngannou would most likely have to continue fighting for the UFC until he lost the belt or wait it out, something that could take years.

Given the above, the smart thing for Ngannou to do next weekend would be to simply lose to Ciryl Gane. Yes, losing to Gane would hurt Ngannou’s stock some and likely lower his negotiating power, however, it is also the only surefire way to get him out of his UFC contract and once he’s rid of that, the world opens up to Ngannou. Tyson Fury has already shown an interest in boxing him and there are no shortage of other, less restrictive organizations that will allow him more freedom in career.

Sadly (or not, I guess, depending who you are) I don’t believe Ngannou is built that way. I think he’s going to try his damnedest to retain his title and then hope that the UFC does the right thing here. But fortunately for him, I don’t think it matters. Ciryl Gane is probably going to beat him so all of this is moot anyway. But more on that next week.


Look, I know this is an MMA website and a good many of you couldn’t give two tugs of a tiger’s tail about college football but this is my column and god damnit I won’t be quiet about it any longer: MY BELOVED BULLDAWGS WON THE NATTY. 2022 already rules.

For those of you who don’t have any real idea what this means or what I’m talking about (and to answer Paul’s question) let me put it in MMA terms. Imagine a fighter that is unquestionably one of the best fighters in the world at his weight class but a guy who just can’t seem to get over the hump. Year after year, this fighter has big wins and looks like he is finally going to get himself to a title but then, at the biggest moment, he fails in the most spectacular ways imaginable. And this doesn’t just happen once or twice, we’re talking about this happening for decades. Then imagine that through circumstances and a bit of luck, that fighter suddenly gets the opportunity to fight for the belt, but it’s against a guy who absolutely throttled him just a few months ago, and low and behold, this time the fighter wins, and not just wins but dominates the guy that just beat the brakes off him, and in so doing he finally realizes a championship that he had been aspiring to for 40 years.

Basically, it’s like when Michael Bisping won the middleweight title.

Bold Predictions for 2022

While this is always one of the most fun questions to answer it is also extremely difficult right now because I’m still riding the high of correctly picking Julianna Peña’s upset over Amanda Nunes. Any predictions I make here, bold as they may be, will almost assuredly pale in comparison to that bit of prognostication. But ask and ye shall receive. My Bold Predictions for 2022 are:

  1. Valentina Shevchenko will become the first three-division champion in UFC history. I’m going to ride with Peña in the rematch against Nunes, and after that, she will almost certainly get Shevchenko again, and the Shevy Truck will thrash her. Then, after she’s claimed her second title, Shevchenko will demand the right to fight Nunes for the featherweight strap, where she will pick that one up as well, and cement herself as the GOAT of Women’s MMA.
  2. Khabib Nurmagomedov returns to MMA. I have been staunchly against the idea of Khabib returning to MMA since the minute he announced his retirement, because him walking away made so much sense with his father passing. However, I’ve reconsidered it now for one major reason: the parallels between he and Michael Jordan are striking.

In 1993, Jordan, universally considered to be the best basketball player alive and an all-time great, walked away from the sport he was dominating after the passing of his father. Jordan went on to try his hand at baseball to middling success, where he was ultimately reminded of what he missed about basketball and competing at the top of the game, and two years later he returned to the court with a simple message, “I’m back.”

Khabib retired in 2020 for similar reasons to Jordan and has since dedicated his time to coaching and to building his own promotion, Eagle FC. He is around the sport constantly, he’s still in the gym nearly every day, and I believe after some more time, he will want to compete again. And when it does happen, Khabib’s return will be similarly iconic, putting out a message that simply says, “Send me location.”

Thanks for reading and thank you for everyone who sent in Tweets! Do you have any burning questions about things at least somewhat related to combat sports? Then you’re in luck, because you can send your Hot Tweets to me, @JedKMeshew and I will answer them! Doesn’t matter if they’re topical or insane. Send them to me and I’ll answer the ones I like the most. Let’s have fun.

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