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Francis Ngannou criticizes the lack of control fighters have when dealing with UFC: ‘We have no power’

UFC 270: Ngannou v Gane Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC

As Francis Ngannou continues to rehabilitate his surgically-repaired knee, he still hasn’t engaged in any meaningful dialogue to remain with the promotion beyond his current deal, which is expected to expire at the end of 2022.

While that might seem odd given the reigning UFC heavyweight champion’s high-profile status, he’s not surprised there haven’t been more talks with the promotion, though he expects those conversations to happen in the near future as he targets his return to fighting in early 2023.

“I think we are not in a rush,” Ngannou told MMA on Sirius XM radio. “I’m not in a rush either. I’m not going anywhere, so I’m not rushing. At the end of the day, we have the whole time.”

A huge part of Ngannou’s demands for a future UFC deal revolve around his ability to pursue fights outside the octagon, which include a potential matchup with heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury. That’s the biggest headline whenever he talks about his contract. But in reality, he says there are a multitude of issues that need to be addressed; namely, a lopsided power dynamic between fighters and the UFC.

“When you look at the sport, you think everything is perfect? No, I don’t think everything is perfect,” Ngannou said. “Over time, I realized there’s a lot of issues that can be fixed. I was getting frustrated at some point, because I feel unprotected, which is exactly the situation that all fighters are in, too. I would like the UFC to consider their position in a lot of things now regarding to fighters. Sponsorships, I think fighters should also have the right to put a sponsor on their shirt, not just for the company to make money out of it. Why not? They are not making money out of it.

“I understand that they want to make this uniform, they want to make the sport [look] clean, I understand that, or not [to] let any type of sponsor get into the octagon, or not [to] let any unappealing sponsor or brand get into the octagon, which I truly agree with that, but we should have some sort of way to check and approve certain sponsors so you can bring a sponsor inside [the UFC] and make money out of it.

“I’m sure over time, UFC fighters, we are losing a lot of power. The company is getting big, getting stronger, and we have no power.”

Ngannou doesn’t believe the UFC is being purposefully malicious towards fighters, but he would like to see more athlete representation involved in decisions being made to give them a voice in the room.

“We have nobody there to advocate for us, just in the room making decisions, nobody cares for the fighters, even though there are about 700 fighters in the promotion,” Ngannou said. “Then I think they should consider somebody to advocate for fighters, because I don’t believe they make all those decisions to harm fighters, but sometimes, they don’t just understand the fighters’ position.

“If we have some sort of fighter representation in their board meetings, we will be like, ‘OK guys, you should think about fighters’ – just to remind them sometimes, it would be a little bit better. There’s a lot of things that can be changed, who can be right. The fighter pay, that’s a huge problem that everyone’s aware of, and it seems like we keep rolling like nothing is going on. The health insurance, the same problem. I would like to see some of those solved.”

That Ngannou currently holds the UFC heavyweight title on the precipice of being a free agent gives him some leverage when he goes back into negotiations for his next contract.

There’s no telling what will happen when the two sides finally sit down to attempt to negotiate a new deal, but Ngannou knows he can’t end up in the exact same situation as he was previously.

“Everything that I’ve been through, my goal is not to get in the same position anymore,” Ngannou said. “If I can do anything to prevent that to happen to anyone else, related or not related in the future, I would be happy to.

“Let’s make the sport the greatest sport. A lot of people fight for this sport in order for it to be what it is today, and I think for us, it’s also our duty to do something to leave a better sport to the next generation.”

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