Jose Aldo enters the squared circle for the second time Saturday to compete under boxing rules against Jeremy Stephens in a six-round match at Gamebred Boxing 4 in Milwaukee, and he thinks recent UFC departure Francis Ngannou handled his situation poorly.
Ngannou completed his UFC deal with a win over Ciryl Gane and walked away as UFC champion to pursue better deals as a free agent, seeing boxing matches against the likes of Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder, but has yet to land a deal.
“With all humbleness, I think Ngannou shot himself in the foot,” Aldo said on this week’s episode of the Trocação Franca podcast. “He had everything to sign a great contract, the biggest in heavyweight, but this desire to be a boxing champion or to fight in boxing… People see the top of the boxing pyramid getting paid big numbers but forget that the lower part is paid so little. I think the UFC has bigger salaries than boxing.
“I see Ngannou tripping about a fight with Tyson Fury, a champion, who heavyweights aim at but don’t come anywhere near. It’s like saying I wanna play soccer because they get paid million but forget only five percent gets paid millions, the rest make way below that. People say that the UFC doesn’t pay that well, but it does. That’s why it’s the biggest organization. You can make money like [big] boxers can. Conor [McGregor], Ronda Rousey. People say women don’t make money and she’s made it, right?”
Aldo had the desire to compete in boxing well before McGregor had his opportunity to share the cage with Floyd Mayweather in 2017, but the UFC didn’t greenlight it. Aldo has butted heads with the UFC and threatened to retire or ask for his release many times in the past as well, but always re-signed with the company.
The Brazilian star came to an agreement with the UFC in 2022, officially retiring from MMA following his defeat to Merab Dvalishvili and being granted clearance to compete in boxing despite having one bout left in his UFC contract. Aldo won a decision over Emmanuel Zambrano this past February in Brazil, and now faces PFL fighter Jeremy Stephens on a pay-per-view card that will be streamed live on UFC Fight Pass in both the U.S. and Brazil.
Ngannou likely won’t have the UFC as a “partner” if he gets a deal done to box in 2023 or 2024, and that’s why Aldo doesn’t think it will be as successful as McGregor’s 2017 experience and his own.
“He’s leaving the UFC and you can be sure that 50 percent of everything he is is off his name now,” Aldo said. “Ronda, in order to make her movies, she had to be in the UFC. No one talks about Ronda now because nobody remembers her now. The UFC is elevated alongside the athlete. You need to be in there. You can have a partnership like Conor did with [the UFC for] Mayweather and that’s how he made millions.”
Aldo admits he doesn’t know the details of Ngannou’s negotiations with the UFC before choosing to walk away, but said both sides could have adjusted expectations for a profitable future together.
“I don’t know who’s wrong, if it’s Ngannou or the UFC, so it’s hard to judge,” Aldo said. “We weren’t participating [in the negotiations], so [I’m talking] based on what we heard, but they could have been more flexible. Ngannou conceding, but saying, ‘I have full capacity to go there and face any boxing champion and represent UFC’s brand.’ It’s all about the negotiation. I had the opportunity to sit down with them and negotiate that and it didn’t happen at the time, I stayed in the UFC and got to a point where I am today. I hope he can continue doing what he does best, which is fight MMA.”
Ngannou holds an incredible MMA record of 17 wins and three defeats with vicious knockout wins against high-level MMA heavyweights such as Stipe Miocic, Junior dos Santos, Cain Velasquez, Curtis Blaydes, Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Alistair Overeem. Yet, Aldo questions if that power will translate well over to boxing.
“I see several athletes imagining they can go to boxing and they don’t even have good boxing,” Aldo said. “Ngannou has heavy hands, but if you look at his punch, it’s not a classic boxer that makes you think he will go in there and throw a punch like he does in the UFC and knock someone out. It’s a completely different sport, it’s a completely different fight. These guys are used with that.”