Francis Ngannou is refusing to be muzzled about his standoff with the UFC.
In an interview posted Friday on his YouTube channel, the UFC heavyweight champion dove in-depth into his current career status, elaborating on his issues with the UFC’s contractual structure and problems he has with many of the promotion’s longstanding business practices.
Ngannou said he felt as if UFC President Dana White became “anti-Francis” in 2018 after he lost back-to-back fights, and explained how his career suffered once the relationship between the two sides began to deteriorate after he turned down offers to sign a new deal and extend his contract under terms he felt were unfair.
“This is something that they don’t like,” Ngannou said. “But I have to look after myself, try to do what is best for me. There’s a lot of terms in that contract that I would like [change] — I don’t like them. The fact that it’s a one-way contract, [that] I have no guarantee.
“In the past two years, they claim to provide three fights for their fighters every year — but in the past two years, I fought twice [total]. I could at least fight five times. And knowing that I’m counting on that to make my living, that was kind of like, I felt like I was freezed to get financial pressure, to maybe come to an agreement from what they are saying, to need them. So that was something that I felt, and I don’t want to get in this position anymore. If I want to give something to somebody, give me some guarantee in return. Like, I can sign a contract that I might not be able to fight [for] one year and have no explanation [for why] and [they] can claim anything [as the reason], because at the end of the day, the contract says [the UFC] is the judge, the jury, and the prosecution.
“At this point, I know that contract pretty good,” Ngannou continued. “Been checking, think about stuff, go through, check, get lawyer advice, go through stuff — and I found nothing good for me in there. But they still tell me that I’m an independent contractor, ‘independent contractor,’ maybe because that’s the way that doesn’t guarantee me a monthly wage, or doesn’t give me health care or something. I don’t feel like an independent contractor. I don’t have that freedom. Freedom, which is something very important for me as well.”
Ngannou (17-3) fought just once per year in 2020 and 2021, knocking out Jairzinho Rozenstruik then Stipe Miocic to capture the UFC heavyweight title. Just three months after Ngannou’s title victory over Miocic in March 2021, the UFC opted to introduce an interim title to the division by booking Ciryl Gane against Derrick Lewis for UFC 265, despite the fact that Ngannou was healthy and would’ve been able to compete the following month.
Ngannou ultimately defeated Gane via unanimous decision, fighting with an injured knee, at to unify the heavyweight titles at UFC 270.
Ngannou said he “definitely” felt favoritism being showed toward Gane from UFC officials as his own contractual issues started to reach a head. But more than anything, it was Ngannou’s feeling of being frozen out of competing in order to apply pressure on him financially to acquiesce to a new deal that bothered the heavyweight champion most.
“In the past, when I wasn’t fighting, asking for fights, I had to beg for a fight,” Ngannou said. “And the way that I was treated, I don’t want to deal with this type of situation anymore. It doesn’t matter what is on line. This has to change. I need to feel somebody, I need to get in a contract that holds both [sides] accountable for something, responsible — you have your own part of the contract to fulfill as well. I didn’t feel like it was a fair contract for me.”
Ngannou’s words echoed much of the rhetoric being lobbed at the UFC in recent months by social media star Jake Paul. The YouTuber-turned-boxer has antagonized White to no end, lobbying for better treatment of UFC athletes and touting subjects such as increased fighter pay and the implementation of health care for all fighters under UFC contract.
Ngannou threw his support behind Paul’s campaign.
“I’m 100 percent with him for what he says,” Ngannou said of Paul. “Like when he claims [he’s] for fighter health care, I’m 100 percent down with that. When he [claims he’s] for fighter pay increase, I’m 1,000 percent down for that. Fighters are not protected. Fighters are all out there on their own, and nobody looks out for them. Like, I walk around the gym sometimes and you will see a fighter, maybe he just lost a fight, and then he’s training and he’ll get an injury — he will take this injury and just hope that he heals, because he can’t afford the treatment, knowing that he’s doing this for a living. He has a contract and all this stuff. It’s tough to watch [that] stuff and to think that it’s normal. No, it’s not normal.
“They’re putting their body on the line for something. At least [give them] health care.”
Ngannou is currently expected to be sidelined for the majority of 2022 as he recovers from surgery to repair torn ligaments in his knee. If his standoff with the UFC remains unresolved, the heavyweight champion has expressed a willingness to test the limits of his UFC contract and attempt to test free agency in 2023.
Ngannou reiterated Friday that “it’s possible” he’s fought his final fight in the octagon, and he underscored the fact that he’s reached a point in his career where he’s willing to take a financial hit to improve conditions for fighters who can’t make the same sacrifices.
“They have debt,” Ngannou said. “They need to borrow money to subsidize their life. So even though he knows that he’s not getting paid enough, he can’t pass [up] that opportunity, because he has a machete on his throat, so he needs that. How is he going to fight against the system? He can’t fight against the system. He’s just going to take it. Just going to sit on his pride and keep doing it, and the power will keep getting bigger in the other hand and the fighter will keep getting smaller in the other hand.”