In the world of UFC, 2021 was a historic year as three African-born fighters, Israel Adesanya, Francis Ngannou, and Kamaru Usman, united to dominate the octagon.
Their success was a source of pride for their home countries, and rumors started swirling that they could even bring the UFC to Africa for the first time ever. Fast-forward to 2023, and while none of the three fighters currently hold a UFC championship, the story of Ngannou’s departure from the organization is an intriguing one.
The former heavyweight champion left the UFC to fight for better deals for himself and his teammates, and Adesanya recently showed his support for Ngannou’s cause backstage at UFC 284.
As the world of UFC continues to evolve, it’s clear that the African fighters are a force to be reckoned with, and fans can’t wait to see what they’ll do next.
Israel Adesanya says Francis Ngannou made “right call” leaving the UFC and his demands were perfectly fair.
— MMA Junkie (@MMAJunkie) February 12, 2023
“Francis made the right call,” Adesanya said at RAC Arena in Perth, Australia. “He’s the one that kicked in the door. We’ve all been behind him, we’ve been saying this for how long, if you guys go back on the tapes.
“I’ve been saying the same thing. I’m not gonna harp on about it, but he’s right, it’s little things — he’s asking for things that should be mandatory. He wasn’t asking for, you know, crazy, ridiculous diva-ish demands. There’s something as little as for the guys fighting on the opening [bout], having the fourth or third corner man being paid for and the hotel is being paid for. That sets them up nicely, and they don’t have to fork it out of their 10 and 10, to pay for their fourth or third corner. Little things like that.”
Francis Ngannou, is pushing for some major changes in the league. He’s fighting for the right to approach outside sponsors, provide health insurance, and have a fighter advocate to represent athletes in negotiations. Unfortunately, all his proposals, except for a salary increase, were rejected. As a result, Ngannou has entered free agency, leaving his future in the UFC uncertain.
Former middleweight champion, Adesanya, has also been vocal about the issue of fighter pay. He’s been advocating for higher salaries for UFC rookies and criticized the “atrocious” compensation given to Ngannou for defending his title at UFC 270.
“He’s not being a diva,” Adesanya said of Ngannou. “He’s asking for reasonable demands, and I felt like he should have got them. But again, yeah, what [UFC President Dana White] said, ‘That’s not how we do business,’ but the way we do business has to change, and it will change. He’s just the guy to kick in the door, and you never know what the future holds. Maybe he comes back or something.”
White didn’t appear as upbeat about Ngannou’s future, saying the heavyweight champion preferred to compete against weaker opponents outside of the UFC than the finest fighters in the world inside the Octagon. Ngannou rejected such notion and stated that the promotion that may lead to a contract that he thought valued his contributions will determine his future.
“I think he’ll come back [to the UFC], Adesanya offered. “He’s the greatest heavyweight we’ve ever had. Not not even just like in the UFC, but in history. He left on his own terms with the belt, never lost it. … So I feel he’s gonna do what he has to do in boxing or wherever else. But it’s a great hit to the company. I know he’ll be back, though. He’ll be back.”
Adesanya boldly responded that Ngannou, the heavyweight representative of the “Three Kings,” will return when asked if a UFC trip to Africa would be incomplete without him.