Former UFC heavyweight king Francis Ngannou has departed the promotion after two years of negotiating.
‘The Predator’ has been on the sidelines since facing former interim champion Ciryl Gane in Jan. 2022 at UFC 270. He went into the outing looking to complete the final bout on his deal with the promotion and add another title defense under his belt. Using an unexpectedly grappling-heavy game plan, Ngannou minimized the striking threat of ‘Bon Gamin’ and got the nod on the judges’ scorecards by unanimous decision.
Following the result, Ngannou revealed that the doctors advised him not to take the contest due to a severe knee injury but he decided against the advice to get done with his contract.
He expressed interest in setting up a crossover mega showdown with former two-time boxing world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury. Although he was linked to welcoming former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones to the heavyweight class, no concrete developments happened due to failed negotiations.
Daniel Cormier Says Ngannou Was Not Scared To Fight Jones
On Jan. 15, former UFC two-division champion turned analyst Daniel Cormier weighed in on Ngannou’s exit in a YouTube video. He also detailed how the situation would have an impact on the new heavyweight champion. Jones is scheduled to take on Gane for the gold in the headlining bout of UFC 285 on Mar. 4 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“Right now, because Francis left, it’s almost like Francis avoided Jones,” said Cormier (transcribed by MMA Junkie). “That’s not true. Francis would’ve fought Jon Jones on any day of the week. Let’s not get crazy, fans. Fans always come up with these ideas, but trust me: Jones, it’s going to flip to, ‘Is he the real champion, because he didn’t beat Francis Ngannou?’ if he wins that fight against Ciryl Gane.
“Which is not guaranteed, because Ciryl Gane is as good as they come.”
Jones would have been out of competition for three years when he battles Gane. He was last seen in action against Dominick Reyes in Feb. 2020 at UFC 247. He managed to come out on top of a razor-thin decision that many felt could have gone either way.
Besides his highly anticipated comeback, it will also mark his debut in the heavyweight division.
White Suggested Ngannou Left To Fight Lesser Opponents
At the UFC Vegas 67’s post-fight press conference, company president Dana White announced the fight between Jones and Gane for the undisputed heavyweight title as the company decided to let Ngannou walk away.
He shared that the offer was not appropriate for ‘The Predator’ and that the 36-year-old Cameroonian wanted out as he did not want to fight elite contenders in the UFC, implying he did not actually want a showdown with Jones due to the risk factor.
“We offered Francis a deal that would’ve made him the highest paid heavyweight in the history of the company – more than (Brock) Lesnar, more than anybody – and he turned the deal down,” White said (transcribed by MMA Junkie).
“We get to this point, and I’ve told you guys this before, if you don’t want to be here, you don’t have to be here. I think Francis is in a place right now where he doesn’t want to take a lot of risks. He feels he’s in a good position where he can fight lesser opponents and make more money.”