Francis Ngannou, den fruktade tungviktaren, var nära att fortsätta sin karriär i UFC trots alla konflikter.

UFC stoppade Francis Ngannou för att gå matcher

Förra veckan meddelade Francis Ngannou att han officiellt har skrivit på för PFL (Professional Fighters League) på ett avtal som inte bara tillåter honom att tävla inom MMA samtidigt utan som även låter honom gå lukrativa matcher i boxning och gör honom till minoritetsägare, medlem i PFL:s rådgivande styrelse och ordförande för PFL Africa. Ngannous kontrakt med ligan är helt unikt inom MMA:s historia.

Detta avtal tillkännagavs fyra månader efter att Ngannou blev kontraktslös och 16 månader efter att han gick sin sista match för UFC, ett framgångsrikt försvar av tungviktstiteln mot Ciryl Gane. Den titeln kom i och med Ngannous avsked att bli vakant och erövrades av Jon Jones, som besegrade Gane vid UFC 285.

Ngannous manager Marquel Martin förklarade att fightern faktiskt kunde ha blivit kontraktslös mycket tidigare om UFC hade gett honom regelbundna matcher. De blev otåliga när de försökte få till en match mot Jones efter Ngannous seger över Jairzinho Rozenstruik i maj 2020.

Martin sade följande via The MMA Hour:

It was beyond frustrating.

Francis, we were trying to get so many fights, people have no idea. He should have been done with his contract two years ago, easily. And we could have re-signed, we could have done whatever. It was always, ‘Hey, this is happening and this is happening.’ One could say he was just getting stalled out, right? After the Rozenstruik fight, we were waiting around forever and we didn’t want to wait on Stipe [Miocic]. I think something was going on with [Daniel Cormier] and Stipe, we didn’t want to wait, we were like, ‘We’ll take another fight. No problem. We’ll take another fight.’

So when people say Francis didn’t want to fight or blah, blah, blah, it’s just not true. So I stopped arguing with the Twitter trolls and stuff. It’s just, I’ve got so many damn receipts I’m not even going to share them. And UFC knows that. They know that we were actively trying to fight all the time. All the time.

Francis Ngannou kunde förlängt med UFC

Ngannou och Jones fortsätter att häckla  varandra via sociala medier, trots att kameruniern inte längre är en del av UFC. Det verkade som att de skulle mötas redan för flera år sedan, men matchen blev aldrig av av olika anledningar, inklusive att Jones ville ha mer pengar för att fightas mot Ngannou enligt UFC-presidenten Dana White, samt att Jones behövde tid för att kunna gå över från lätt-tungvikt till tungvikt.

Ngannou och White är för närvarande i en öppen konflikt angående Ngannous avslut med UFC. Martin säger dock att Ngannou faktiskt övervägde att förnya sitt kontrakt med organisationen:

I thought it got very close. I wasn’t a part of the conversations in the fourth quarter, if you will, and you can probably guess why, but in my conversations post those dinners, there was a real chance that he was going to sign. But it had to be under the right terms. People are saying, ‘It’s all about money.’ Chill. To keep it 100, as they say, this dude got offered the biggest contract outside of Conor [McGregor] before the interim fight with Ciryl and that, and he said no because it wasn’t about just money.

Obviously, money plays a factor, but it was other things that were important to Francis, and who am I to tell this dude no? Who am I to say, ‘Nah, do this deal.’ That’s not the kind of person I am, that’s not the kind of manager I want to be, that’s not the kind of business I want to do, and Francis at the end of the day makes up his own mind. But I would say that he was very close. I would say that I wish things were different. I think there was a lot of miscommunication in the back and forth in getting all these people involved. At the end of the day, I still think everyone won.

Respekterar Dana White

Martin hävdar att UFC alltid var ett alternativ, även när förhandlingarna blev offentliga och Martin själv hamnade i en kortvarig fejd med White. I juni 2021 svarade Martin UFC-presidenten efter att White verkade ha kritiserat honom i en kommentar på Instagram. Martin insåg senare att kommentaren inte var riktad specifikt mot honom, men han ångrar inte att han svarade.

Faktum är att Martin har en hög nivå av respekt för White och företaget, men det betyder inte att han och hans team skulle böja sig bakåt för att få Ngannou tillbaka i oktagonen.

Overcoming that was a huge win for all of us. I honestly thought it was just a position of strength, not only from a negotiation standpoint but who Francis is and what he’s able to accomplish. The goal was ‘Hey, free agent? Cool. Let’s re-sign.’ But he had to fulfill his contract. It was always about fulfilling his contract. That’s what you do. And over the course of us going through the contract, reading it, going back and forth, getting CAA’s lawyers, outside lawyers’ opinions, this is what the contract is, this is what the contract states, obviously we work for the client.

I know how big the UFC is and how great they are. They’re amazing. If you don’t give respect to [UFC Chief Business Officer] Hunter [Campbell] and Dana, you’re crazy. I have tremendous respect, Francis has tremendous respect. But at the end of the day, you have to make smart business decisions to put your client in a position to succeed.

Tror Ngannous exempel kommer inspirera många att värdera sig högre

Martin är tacksam över att Ngannous kontraktssituation har lösts och att de kunde komma överens om det historiska avtalet med PFL. Nu är han optimistisk och tror att Ngannous initiativ och korrekta bedömning av sitt värde som fighter kommer att bli ett exempel för andra kampsportsutövare.

I’m just here, thankful to God, because it was a lot. People were assuming this and assuming that. Francis, I’ve got to give all the credit to Francis. He was able to withstand all the tide and all the pressure, all the media hate, all the naysayers, and come out with arguably the best deal that we’ve ever seen in MMA. Period. Including Conor, from a structural standpoint, Conor, I don’t know—I would say outside of Conor.

He’s the highest-paid heavyweight ever. With the PFL deal, the way that it’s unstructured, it’s unprecedented. This is a game changer. That’s why I’m kind of shocked. I thought everyone would celebrate this. Even fighters, even managers. I have no hate towards anyone. This is better for the sport. The first thing that I saw at CAA when I worked there, because it’s literally the best of the best in the world, the UFC side is top level, but the other side is like the wild, wild west. Like, the managing a fighter, that side.

That side needs to catch up with the UFC in my opinion, and the only way to do that is to have a person or someone like a Francis that’s willing to say, ‘I’ll be first.’ This changes everything. Fighters are going to get paid more from the UFC. They’re going to have more opportunities. When you see Dana say, ‘Tyson, come on, let’s put on this fight.’ This helps everyone. People, I know behind the scenes, fighters will reach out to Francis and that’s beautiful, but I wish there was a lot more appreciation for a person like Francis and maybe it will happen later on, like years to come, but this dude is a game changer.

Ngannou förväntas gå en stor boxningsmatch detta år innan han debuterar i PFL nästa år.


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