UFC president Dana White yesterday (January 15) announced that heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou had become a free agent.
White made the announcement ahead of the UFC Fight Night event in which he claimed the deal offered to Ngannou would’ve made him the ‘highest-paid heavyweight in the history of the company’.
However, the UFC honcho revealed that the company and their heavyweight champion were unable to agree on a new deal.
Dana White details what led to Francis Ngannou's exit from the UFC. pic.twitter.com/31Ag9PYhwU— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) January 15, 2023
White said: “I’ve told you guys this before, if you don’t want to be here, you don’t have to be.
“I think Francis is in a place right now where he doesn’t want to take a lot of risk.
“He feels like he’s in a good position where he could fight lesser opponents and make more money.
“We’re going to let him do that, release him from his contract and give up our right to match.”
However, fans and MMA personnel alike have claimed that White’s comments on Ngannou wanting to fight ‘lesser opponents’ was the wrong way to frame the situation.
Many have praised the Cameroon fighter for ‘sticking to his guns’ when it comes to his worth.
MMAFighting editor Shaheen Al-Shatti wrote: “Francis Ngannou, the man who demolished Stipe, beat 1/2 of the next title fight on one leg, and spent 2 years begging to fight Jones, did not leave UFC because he was scared of competition. Don't fall for it.”
Another fan wrote: “Respect to Ngannou for sticking to his guns.”
A third tweeted: “It's prizefighting and the prize is money, not being taken advantage of by the UFC. Good for Ngannou.”
A fourth added: “Ngannou is a massive loss for the UFC simply because their heavyweight title is no longer THE heavyweight title.”
Let's be clear, because this is going to happen. It's already started. Francis Ngannou, the man who demolished Stipe, beat 1/2 of the next title fight on one leg, and spent 2 years begging to fight Jones, did not leave UFC because he was scared of competition. Don't fall for it.— Shaheen Al-Shatti (@shaunalshatti) January 15, 2023
Highest paid HW doesn't equal highest paid fighter and we know the highest paid UFC fighter was also underpaid vs. what he made for the UFC...— Trent Reinsmith (@TrentReinsmith) January 15, 2023
It's prize fighting and the prize is money, not being taken advantage of by the UFC. Good for Ngannou. https://t.co/XH7gvaPSzc
The PFL telling their heavyweight division that Francis Ngannou has been released by the UFC: pic.twitter.com/XPp3NoZVpz— MacMally 🍀 (@MacMallyMMA) January 15, 2023
In further stunning news, White announced the return of infamous fighter Jon Jones who will take on Circyl Gane for the now-vacant heavyweight championship at UFC 285.
It will be Jones’ first fight inside the Octagon in three years, last competing against Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 in February 2020.
White says that the American had signed an eight-fight deal with the company.
Jones had faced a string of problems over recent years, with multiple failed drug tests ahead of marquee fights for the company.
The 35-year-old was arrested and charged with domestic battery violence in September 2021, however, those charges were eventually dropped.
Between Ngannou’s release and Jones’ return, fans were in for a field day of stunning news.
SPORTbible has reached out to UFC for comment.
Featured Image Credit: Px Images / Alamy. ESPN MMA/Twitter.
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