A UFC champion will be out of competition for at least nine months due to having surgery for an injury.
According to ESPN, UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou is “scheduled to undergo knee surgery on March 18 according to his manager, Marquel Martin.” The expected timeline is 9 months, according to the outlet.
This surgery comes as the UFC and Ngannou are negotiating the champion’s future with the organization. The latest update on the contract negotiations was a dinner meeting between Ngannou and UFC president Dana White.
“I appreciated and supported the UFC’s dinner invitation to Francis,” Martin told the outlet. “I believe Francis and Dana needed to get together in that kind of setting. We’re all looking forward now to sitting down with the UFC in a professional capacity to map out the next chapter in Francis’s journey.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Francis Ngannou Spoke About the Injury After Defeating Ciryl Gane at UFC 270 ‘It Was Pretty Bad’
The injury was kept under wraps ahead of Ngannou’s title fight with the-then interim champion Ciryl Gane, but fans and media alike noticed something was off as the fight progressed when the heavy striker turned grappler.
Later, in his post-fight interview, Ngannou finally revealed the extensive injury to his knee.
“It was pretty bad,” Ngannou said during the UFC 270 post-fight press conference. “I have a grade 3 MCL (tear), I have damage on my ACL and damage on my MPFL. That was 25 days ago.”
He continued by explaining why he decided to fight anyway.
“This sport is very dangerous and you can hurt yourself all the time,” he said. “So if you think there’s a chance you can do it, I think you have to do it. I believe in myself and I’ve been through a lot of stuff in my life. That must be a dumb decision, but I didn’t want to withdraw from the fight. I was very confident about my skills to win this fight.”
Francis Ngannou’s Coach Says They Asked Him to Pull out of the Title Fight Due to Injury
Many people had wondered why Ngannou’s team would not have talked him out of competing and his coach Eric Nicksick says they did.
But Ngannou wouldn’t listen.
While speaking on The MMA Hour on January 24, 2022, he detailed the injury and the aftermath.
“Francis was standing southpaw,” Nicksick said on the show. “Francis was kind of piecing him up a little bit, and I could tell the guy was getting anxious, so the guy shot a very, very low single. It wasn’t like him trying to be mean or anything like that, it was just him taking a shot. But it was really low, and went onto Francis’ lead leg, which was his right leg being southpaw, and with the shin pads and the knee pad on, his knee kind of buckled funny. And he cringed and grabbed it, and then got up and kind of moved around a little bit and then actually finished up the rounds.
“We went to the [UFC] PI and got looked at the next day. He had MRI and it was a full MCL tear, and then he had damage to the ACL as well. So once we heard that, in my mind, I was like, ‘Well, I don’t know how you’re going to be able to move around.’”
Not only did he move around but he went five full rounds with Gane just weeks later.
“Myself, [coach] Dewey [Cooper], [manager] Marquel [Martin], we all suggested that he should [withdraw] — that we didn’t think it was the right move to take this fight,” Nicksick said on the show. “But we had that come to Jesus moment Friday before we left — and I was emotional, man. I wanted him to understand, like, ‘Dude, this isn’t about us. This isn’t about a paycheck. This isn’t about anything other than the safety for your health and the rest of your career. And as your coach, I have to vocalize that. I can’t just sit here and not say something.’
“‘But if you tell me, because you know your body — if you tell me that you can fight and you can make this happen, then I’m not going to mention this sh*t again and we’re going full steam ahead, and you’re going to have my support, no matter what. But if something goes wrong, I wouldn’t feel right about myself for not saying how I felt.’ I wouldn’t have been able to sleep at night if I didn’t. So we had that kind of moment. I wouldn’t say he was mad, by any means. I could just tell it was just kind of a downing moment.”
Ngannou defeated Gane via a unanimous decision.