Enjoy the upcoming fight between Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane, which headlines the UFC 270 pay-per-view (PPV) event on Jan. 22 in Anaheim, because it may be the last time we see Ngannou inside the Octagon, depending on how things shake out against “Bon Gamin.”
That’s because “The Predator” is competing on the final fight of his current deal after refusing to sign a lowball contract extension earlier this year. According to Ngannou, the promotion has been actively trying to sabotage him — with tactics like this — to discredit the value of his brand.
“From the beginning, we’ve always and still do remain, like, open to negotiating with UFC,” Ngannou agent Marquel Martin of CAA said on Sirius XM’s “Throwing Down with Renee and Miesha” (transcribed by MMA Fighting). “Even from my standpoint and his representation’s standpoint, UFC is the best MMA promoter in the game, in the business. However, it has to make sense for Francis. At the end of the day, I work for Francis, and he and I spent a lot of time chatting back and forth and trying to understand, okay, exactly what does that mean for his future, and we’ve had a lot of back and forth with the UFC. But to be honest with you, I haven’t heard back from the UFC since, I want to say June.”
It probably doesn’t help that Martin represents Creative Artist Agency (CAA), which is a direct competitor to Endeavor. UFC was acquired by Endeavor as part of a blockbuster deal back in summer 2016, with promotion president Dana White putting pen to paper for a lengthy extension that is expected to last another eight years.
“You hear this false narrative of representation [at UFC],” Martin continued. “What does representation look like in your mind, UFC? To say yes to every single thing that you do. Am I supposed to take you out to dinner, be your best friend? No, I have a fiduciary obligation to my client, and the facts are, okay, if you want to judge me and try to put me out of business for whatever reason and bully me publicly, I don’t respond to that. CAA doesn’t respond to that. We know how to do our job. We’re very competent at what we do.”
White claims Martin is “full of shit.”
Ngannou, 35, has been vocal about his desire to get paid more for his efforts inside the cage after putting together one of the more impressive heavyweight runs in recent memory. But winning five straight — with all five victories coming by way of thunderous knockout — did not have much influence at the bargaining table.
“Let me make this clear: It’s not all about money,” Martin said. “It is 1000 percent not all about money, and they know that. But at the end of the day, the UFC has a business model, that’s how they run it with all their fighters. They can’t put themselves in a situation to establish a precedent that negatively reflects [on] them, so that’s kind of the rub. If they had an offer that made sense for them and for Francis, we’re open to entertain it. They’ve made it pretty clear where they’re at, so it’s an unfortunate, and I hate to say this, but it feels like a standoff.”
White will no doubt be asked about the future of Ngannou at the UFC 270 post-fight press conference and the best case scenario for the promotion, at least in terms of brokering a new deal — or parting ways forever — is a dominant win for Gane.
We’ll find out in less than a month.