When Francis Ngannou had his hand raised after winning the first decision of his career in the UFC 270 main event, the heavyweight title was wrapped back around his waist – except UFC President Dana White was nowhere to be found.
Instead, UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard put the title on Ngannou before he gave his post-fight interview to Joe Rogan in the cage. White had previously handed the flyweight title to Deiveson Figueiredo following his win over Brandon Moreno, but he was conspicuous by his absence while Ngannou was celebrating the win over Ciryl Gane on Saturday night.
“I don’t know. You have to ask him,” Ngannou said when asked why White didn’t stick around to put the belt around his waist. “No, I did not have anything to do about that. I think that was their decision. I’m about to ask about that, too.”
Of course, Ngannou has been engaged in a very public battle with the UFC over his contract after failing to come to terms with the promotion on a new deal prior to Saturday night. Ngannou actually fought out his current contract with the win over Gane, although the exact terms of when he could be considered a free agent is still unknown due to a “champion’s clause” that the UFC typically retains on anyone holding a belt in the promotion.
In addition to White not appearing in the cage to give Ngannou his belt, the UFC president was also missing in action at the post-fight press conference as well. White is a consistent presence at the post-fight press conferences, especially following a UFC pay-per-view like the one that took place in Anaheim this weekend.
“Wow, OK, I didn’t know that, too,” Ngannou said after he was told about White skipping the press conference.
Prior to his fight, Ngannou couldn’t give any kind of prediction about his future and that hadn’t changed much just because he was victorious in the UFC 270 main event.
Ngannou’s agent Marquel Martin, who works for Creative Artists Agency (CAA) — a talent agency that’s also a well-known rival to the UFC owners at Endeavor — had previously revealed that it had been several months since he had spoken to anybody at the promotion about working on a new deal for the heavyweight champion.
“It’s been a long time I’ve been wondering about my future in the company,” Ngannou said. “So nothing has changed. I’m still in the same position.
“I’ve been going to the UFC a lot so I’d kind of like exhausted all my options.”
Ngannou has vehemently stated that his struggle to come to terms with the UFC on a new deal went far beyond money, although he admits that always plays some part in negotiations.
According to the California State Athletic Commission, Ngannou was paid $600,000 for his win at UFC 270, although that figure doesn’t including any pay-per-view or discretionary bonuses paid out after the event is over.
“It’s not simply money,” Ngannou said about his problems with the UFC. “Obviously money is part of it but it’s also the term of the contract that I don’t agree with it. I don’t feel like it’s fair. I don’t feel like I’m a free man. I don’t feel like I have been treated good. It’s unfortunate I have to be in this position to be able to say that but I think it’s something that everybody should at least have the right to claim for what’s best for him.
“At the end of the day, we put a lot of work in this job. We take a lot on our body to make it happen. So at least we can have a fair and square deal.”
Based upon his current contract, Ngannou said “I think so” when asked if he would be free of all obligations if he sat out until the end of 2022 without another fight in the UFC and then at that point, he would hit free agency.
While sitting out that long is never ideal, Ngannou has expressed his frustrations with the UFC numerous times in recent years regarding his lack of activity so he doesn’t expect this situation to be much different.
“In the past three years, I have fought three times so what does that mean? Once a year?” Ngannou said. “So it wouldn’t be something strange. I’m not frustrated about anything. I’m at peace with myself and my decisions.”
While it’s entirely possible that Ngannou has already competed in the UFC for the final time in his career, he’s not shutting any doors or burning any bridges right now.
That said, Ngannou isn’t certain what will be next for him but he’s not backing down on his contractual demands and that may leave him at an impasse when it comes to a future with the UFC.
“I’ve expressed my willingness to stay in the UFC, to have a contract just to be respected,” Ngannou said. “The only reason why were are here, I think, is because at some point, I wasn’t respected. [Dana] could have taken way less to get this deal done but he went to a power position and got everybody frustrated, get me frustrated, get me to lose the desire of doing things.
“I get in this sport, I didn’t grow up dreaming about this sport. I just got into it because it was fun and all that stuff. Then you get to the point that you’re kind of find yourself at that point in the sport where it’s not fun, which is frustrating. It kind of messes with your mind. But I’m pretty good trying to stay focused, just think about the sport and nothing around it and hope that things are going to go right.”