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Jon Jones advisor Richard Schaefer: Francis Ngannou ‘made a mistake’ by not re-signing with UFC

Richard Schaefer doesn’t agree with Francis Ngannou’s decision to part ways with the UFC.

Over the weekend, UFC President Dana White revealed the promotion was unable to come to terms with heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou and would be cutting ties with “The Predator.” Instead, former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones will now fight former interim champion Ciryl Gane for the now-vacant heavyweight strap at UFC 285. As Jones’ current career advisor, Schaefer, the the longtime boxing promoter and former CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, spoke about the recent turn of events, suggesting that Ngannou made a mistake by not re-signing with the UFC.

“I think he’s a terrific athlete and I think he has some big fights ahead of him and I personally think, just my feeling, that he made a mistake not working out his deal with UFC,” Schaefer told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “But it’s his decision. That’s what he is doing and the world goes on, and UFC goes on. There’s going to be other big fights and there are other heavyweights lined up to fight the winner of this fight, to fight Jon after he beats Ciryl. So we’ll move on and keep doing the best fighting the best, the best which are available.”

While Ngannou’s departure from the UFC was sudden, it’s not entirely unexpected. The heavyweight champion was outspoken in his many issues with the promotion, including the pay, the control, and the lack of respect he felt from the company. One of the major sticking points for Ngannou when it came to re-signing with the UFC was the option to pursue superfights in boxing, particularly one with heavyweight champion Tyson Fury. Whether it was this specific point that ultimately led Ngannou to pass up lucrative offers from the UFC is still unknown, but Schaefer certainly hopes this wasn’t the blocker.

“Maybe he was a big star in UFC, but did he really transcend the UFC?” Schaefer said. “I don’t know. I don’t know enough. I think he’s a terrific athlete, I think he’s very charismatic as well, I’m a fan of his, so I wish him all the best. I just hope he’s not going to go into boxing, but that he’s going to find whatever big fights he’s looking for...

“I wish that fight fans, sports fans, would finally understand, if you have an MMA athlete go and compete against a boxer in a boxing ring, the boxer is going to win,” Schaefer continued, explaining his disdain for the boxing move. “There’s just no question about it. And if you have a boxer go and compete in an octagon, the MMA guy, under MMA rules, the MMA guys is going to win. It’s two different sports and I don’t see in any way, shape, or form, that Francis Ngannou could go and beat a Deontay Wilder or a Tyson Fury or an Oleksandr Usyk...

“So if that is the case, why do I need to see it? Why do I need to pay $80 or $100 to see a fight when I know who is going to win? I’m not interested in that.”

What comes next for Ngannou isn’t certain, but what he’s leaving behind is: one of the biggest superfights in MMA history. For over two years, Ngannou and Jones have postured for a potential matchup and had Ngannou chosen to re-sign with the UFC, by all accounts that would have been the next fight for both men. Instead, Ngannou-Jones now joins the list of Most Wanted bouts that never were. But while fans may lament what was lost, Schaefer says he and Jones are strictly focused on what’s to come.

“I don’t think there’s disappointment,” Schaefer said. “You sort of move on and that’s what it is. One can never say never. Who knows what the future holds? [Jon] is focused on this fight. It’s a big fight. I do believe that these are the two best heavyweights fighting each other and it’s a massive fight, so that’s what the focus is. You can’t go and cry over what could have been or things like that.

“For whatever reason, Francis decided to step aside. I respect that and wish him all the best. And who knows if down the road that fight is going to happen? I personally think that Ciryl, with his skill set and his youth and so on is a bigger fight. It’s a bigger fight that Francis would have been. Certainly more of a challenge, and I think it just shows you how determined Jon Jones is to become heavyweight champion. For him it was never, ‘Oh, I’m not going to fight this guy or I’m not going to fight that guy.’ For him it was, ‘I don’t really care. I want to fight for the heavyweight world title. Just bring whoever it is.’ That’s why he’s the GOAT. That’s what GOATs do.”

UFC 285 takes place on March 4 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

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