Francis Ngannou has become the sport’s most controversial martyr. The latest news of the UFC's release of Ngannou was brought to new light following his appearance Tuesday on the Ariel Helwani Show, The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani. Here, Ngannou revealed his incredible contract dispute, which had been pulling at the UFC for some time.
Let’s get down to brass tax here; the contract was a three-fight deal - obliging Ngannou’s request - valued at about $8 million per fight. This would make the contract the most expensive in the history of the UFC’s Heavyweight Division. When you consider Ngannou’s poor PPV performances in the past, his most recent fight with Ciryl Game at UFC 270 only selling just under 300,000 PPVs, this deal is remarkable. Yet Ngannou said, “this is not about the money”, as he walked away from an over $23 million contract.
How did the UFC fumble this contract? Is Ngannou insane? Yes, probably. But the negotiations went deeper than just money and a three-fight deal. Ngannou campaigned for many things, including the promotion to waive extension clauses, health insurance for the fighters, approved sponsorships for each fighter, and even representation for the fighters at the table during important meetings. These demands are incredibly necessary for the sport, and Ngannou is a noble person to go to war for his fellow fighters. This act proved itself even nobler after Ngannou left the table despite his historic contract offer.
"How about those guys at the bottom?" Ngannou empathized. "They can't really afford that health insurance. I have been there, so it's something I still carry in my heart."
Unfortunately, no good act goes unpunished, and Ngannou was kicked to the curb. Dana White reported that Ngannou was stripped of his UFC Heavyweight Title and cut from the UFC roster. However, you can’t get the last laugh against the man who holds the Guinness World Record for most powerful punch, and with that Ngannou waived his exclusive negotiating window along with his one-year matchmaking clause.
Above all else, Ngannou stuck to his guns, telling Ariel Helwani, "In that contract, I'm not free. In that contract, I'm not an independent contractor. In that contract, I have no rights, I have no power. I hand over all the power to you guys, and I've seen in the past how you can utilize that power."
The Ngannou story goes so much further. He is a remarkably tough individual who fled poverty in Cameroon, shoveling sand mines to pursue a dream of professional fighting. An epic 14-month journey through five different counties, where he was homeless on the streets of Paris, imprisoned in Spain.
Following his lifetime of victories against adversity, Ngannou has stoically left his UFC dream. He has shown us his heart inside the cage, and now we have had the chance to see it outside that cage as well. Ngannou requested no “thank you”, no “pat on the back”; only his well-earned, respect.
"I think I just need some respect. More respect, at least. It's very important. I need some respect. I need some freedom. I need to feel like a man.”