Francis Ngannou has been released from the UFC.
UFC President Dana White revealed the news during Saturday’s UFC Vegas 67 post-fight press conference. The announcement follows months of reported negotiations.
Dana White details what led to Francis Ngannou’s exit from the UFC. pic.twitter.com/31Ag9PYhwU
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) January 15, 2023
“We’ve been working on a new agreement for Francis for like two years now. And we had gotten to a point where he was gonna fight Jon Jones and many who believe, including me, that he’s the best of all time, for the heavyweight championship. And Jon Jones has been willing, and ready, and able to fight anybody. He didn’t care who it was. Could’ve been anybody in the heavyweight division. He was ready to go,” White said.
“We offered Francis a deal that would’ve made him the highest paid heavyweight in the history of the company. More than [Brock] Lesnar, more than anybody. And he turned the deal down.”
“So, we get to this point — I’ve told you guys before. If you don’t want to be here, you don’t have to be here. I think Francis is in a place right now where he doesn’t want to take a lot of risks. He feels like he’s in a good position where he could fight lesser opponents and make more money.
“So we’re going to let him do that. We’re going to release him from his contract. We’re going to give up our right to match. And he can go wherever he wants and do whatever he wants.”
In an interview on “The MMA Hour,” Ngannou explained his side of the story.
— No Context Ariel Helwani (@NoContextAriel) January 15, 2023
“I just want to be free,” Ngannou said.
“… They hold you in, like, captivity. You can’t do anything, you have no right. The contract is one-sided… You don’t even have health insurance.”
Ngannou has been at odds with the UFC since December 2021 – the weeks leading up to his first title defense against then-interim champion Ciryl Gane, which took place in January 2022. Ngannou recorded a comeback victory thanks to his newfound wrestling skills and successfully retained his heavyweight belt.
But it was later revealed that Ngannou fought with knee injuries and had to undergo surgery, which kept him sidelined for all of 2022. During that time, Ngannou’s team and White expressed that they were going to work out a deal.
There were multiple reports in that timespan that there was hope in re-signing Ngannou, but those proved to be false on Saturday.
The MMA community took to social media to share their reaction to the news.
Some fans said that Ngannou was making a mistake, others said they were happy for the Cameroonian for walking away and the rest expressed their sadness of seeing the heavyweight champion end his chapter with the UFC.
Fighters in other promotions when they found out Francis Ngannou is a free agent 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/fg3uhGrGD2
— Derek Brunson (@DerekBrunson) January 15, 2023
Francis Ngannou may have the greatest backstory out of all the champions and the UFC couldn’t build it.
Every megastar the company has ever had is not because of Dana White but in spite of him.
— Andy Hickey MMA (@AndyHickeyMMA) January 14, 2023
The UFC are making a huge mistake if they let Francis sign with someone else.
He’s mainstream. Power on another level. Exciting. Good character. Great story. Jones v Ngannou would be an absolutely massive fight, and for the sake of a couple million they’re losing out on tens… pic.twitter.com/yuaN6iEnhh
— MMA Commander (@CommanderMma) January 14, 2023
— schwick (@schwick6) January 15, 2023
Ngannou recently posted photos on Instagram where a woman in the picture was wearing a PFL shirt, which led to rumors that Ngannou might be heading to the Professional Fighters League next.
BKFC also recently revealed that they plan to try and sign him.
One of Ngannou’s terms for a new contract is to have the option to box.
He has expressed interest in meeting WBC heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury in the boxing ring, and Fury has shown mutual interest. If that fight were to happen, both fighters are expected to make millions – something that fans have said Ngannou would never get while in the UFC.
Former UFC star Nate Diaz also recently parted ways with the UFC due to failed contract negotiations.