The UFC was unable to come to terms with its now former heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou and have granted him his release, UFC President Dana White announced.
The UFC and Ngannou attempted to negotiate a new contract for the better part of two years but were ultimately unable to come to a deal. The UFC offered Ngannou a deal that would have made him the “highest-paid heavyweight in the history of the company”, according to Dana White. Ngannou would turn it down and ultimately decided to bet on himself and what is best for him. White said the highest-paid heavyweight in UFC history remains Brock Lesnar, who retired in 2017.
Worth noting, Dana White claiming Ngannou would be the highest-paid heavyweight in the history of the sport, even stating he would’ve made more than Fedor Emelianenko, is a comical statement. When the pay structure is already criticized time and again on top of the UFC taking states to court to hide fighter pay, that statement from White is nothing more than word vomit.
White did go on to say “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.”
Shaheen Al-Shatti of MMAFighting pointed this out immediately and it is worth hammering home again here, Ngannou is not running from anyone it appears.
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
The former heavyweight king has seen his brand and worth skyrocket in recent years. He has been rumored to be going to boxing, seemingly to make more money, but also he has his name attached to the greatest heavyweight champion of this generation in Tyson Fury.
Just to add another wrinkle to the opportunities that Francis Ngannou will have, just last February it was reported that Bellator President Scott Coker would be “open” to bringing on Ngannou.
“We haven’t talked to him because he’s still under contract, he still has championship fights but if he’s a free agent one day and you know the timing’s right, we feel it’s a good fit and you know we’ll decide that time,” Coker said. “The philosophy is still the same, look, if you’re a free agent and you want to come shop your wares and your brand and your business, come talk to us because we are in the business of signing the biggest and the best free agents on the planet.”
Outside of the aforementioned Fedor Emelianenko, no other free agent in MMA has a chance to make the money that Ngannou can in the coming years.