It looks like heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou could be leaving the UFC after six years and and 13 fights in the octagon.
Ngannou (16-3-0), 35, is on the last fight of his contract when he defends the title against interim champion Ciryl Gane at UFC 270 on Jan. 22.
In a recent interview with ESPN reporter Brett Okamoto, UFC president Dana White doesn’t seem particularly concerned at the prospect of Ngannou leaving.
White tried to put a brave face on the situation.
These things happen,” White said to ESPN. “Sometimes you don’t always come to terms with people. When you’re a fighter, you have to be careful who represents you. I don’t think he’s had the best representation. Look, if you want to be with us, we’d love to have you. If you don’t want to be with us, no problem. It’s all good. I think his contract, and this is off the top of my head, if he wins he still has time with us after this fight. He’d probably have one more fight.”
According to some media reports, Ngannou’s contract is automatically extended by one fight if he beats Gane. If he loses, that could trigger his exit.
The UFC enjoyed a record year of revenue in 2021. Losing a fighter of Ngannou’s calibre to dollars and cents cannot be simply be shrugged off, particularly a fighter as entertaining and box office as “The Predator.’
It is important to note that while negotiations between the UFC and Ngannou’s team seem to have reached a stalemate, anything is possible and they are officially still ongoing. It would be wise to wait and see how this situation plays out, beginning with UFC 270.