Shortly after winning the UFC heavyweight title, thanks to a second-round destruction of Stipe Miocic at UFC 260, Francis Ngannou told the combat sports media that he wanted to make his Octagon return by July, or perhaps August of this year.
The promotion had other ideas.
Matchmakers tried to book Ngannou against top-ranked heavyweight contender Derrick Lewis for June 12, a rematch of their UFC 226 stinker that is widely-regarded as one of the worst fights in the history of the 265-pound weight class.
“UFC has kicked the tires on Francis Ngannou vs. Derrick Lewis on June 12,” ESPN reporter Ariel Helwani wrote on Twitter. “However the timing doesn’t work for Ngannou (and I don’t blame him; he just won the belt). Bigger story here, IMO, is, at least for now, they don’t seem keen on waiting around for (Jon) Jones.”
Both Ngannou and Jones have been trying to fight each other for the past couple of years. Unfortunately for UFC fans, neither fighter is willing to put pen to paper unless Dana White and Co. offer financial incentive commensurate with the magnitude of their fight.
Or maybe “The Predator” is weary of those “Beast” bombs.
“Since [June 12], at least for now, isn’t viable, do they revisit Jones? Maybe. But Lewis is ready, willing and able,” Helwani continued. “Wouldn’t be surprised if they just try to book that rematch for sometime later in the summer/fall. Doesn’t look like they are willing to meet Jones’ price right now.”
A price that would be right at home in the “sweet science.”
There’s a solid chance Ngannou gets rebooked for Lewis at a later date, unless something dramatic happens with the negotiations between Jones and UFC. That said, with numbers like this floating around, I won’t hold my breath.