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Teddy Atlas questions ‘decency’ of Francis Ngannou team after Mike Tyson training offer mixup

UFC 281: Hooker v Puelles
Francis Ngannou
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Teddy Atlas has some questions about how Francis Ngannou and his people do business.

Atlas, a legendary boxing coach and commentator, said on THE FIGHT with Teddy Atlas podcast that there had been preliminary discussions about working with Ngannou ahead of the former UFC champion’s upcoming Oct. 28 boxing match with Tyson Fury.

According to Atlas, Ngannou’s team expressed interest in setting up a meeting with Atlas to discuss training possibilities, but when it was later announced that Ngannou is instead being tutored by Mike Tyson, Atlas was left out in the cold.

“The next day, my son sends me a thing announcing that they’re getting Mike Tyson to train him,” Atlas said of when he found out that he wouldn’t be involved in Ngannou’s camp. “Again, God bless, good, great. I’m sure that it’s going to bring in some extra pay-per-view buys at the very least—and look, Tyson was a tremendous fighter, we get it, and Ngannou is infatuated by him. He’s obsessed with Tyson. He wanted me to show him how to throw the Tyson uppercut, which I did. So all right, I treat him like a gentleman, but obviously you made that deal with Tyson, and you’re asking me to go out to Vegas to do a trial.

“Why don’t you be up front with me? It just don’t feel good. It just doesn’t feel good and I hate to be—I’m not crying. I guess what I am saying is, can’t we be better as people? I know money is money and it’s important, but isn’t it important to treat people right? Isn’t it important to keep your word? Isn’t it important to just—and again, they’re nice people, but when you’re tempted by these things, isn’t that when it’s most important for you to show those characteristics that I’m talking about, those traits of just decency, of just honesty, of just being up front? Really, being decent with your fellow human being.”

Atlas, 67, has worked as a boxing trainer for over 40 years, working with notable names across the board including former world champions Timothy Bradley, Alexander Povetkin, and Michael Moorer. He is regularly seen providing commentary for marquee boxing matches and is a featured fight analyst on ESPN.

While he understands why Ngannou is taking the direction he has, he’s still miffed about how the situation has been handled.

“Don’t ask me about coming out for a trial when you know you made deal with somebody already, then it’s got to feel like you’re just bringing me out to pick my brain, knowing you’re already going in another direction, which is your prerogative, fine, it’s probably the right direction because it makes sense for them,” Atlas said. “He’s comfortable. Beautiful, beautiful. But be up front.”

What Atlas wants Ngannou to know is that there’s a certain way business is conducted in the boxing business that Ngannou still has to learn. The PFL fighter’s matchup with Fury, a multiple-time heavyweight champion, is the first pro boxing match of his career.

Atlas made it clear he bears no real ill will towards Ngannou and his team, but thinks they can conduct themselves in a more professional manner going forward.

“It’s going to be big money obviously for everybody in Saudi Arabia,” Atlas said. “It’s a bit of a money grab, there’s no doubt about it. Full disclosure, I don’t always talk about things that haven’t come to pass, but Ngannou’s people had asked me about the possibility of training him. Obviously, I don’t just train anyone.

“Even if it’s a pile of oil money in the sand where it’s just obviously a score. I’m no saint with this stuff or a monk, but I’m not going to train someone unless I want to be around them, I think they’re a good person, I think I can coach them, I think they’re coachable, and that I think I can help them. I’m just not going to. So obviously, my way is that I’m going to spend a couple of days with you, that’s the deal. ... It’s going to be a trial period. I’m not going to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ until I go through the trial period and see if I want to work with you, and if I can work with you, and if you can work with me. It’s fair for you too.”

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