Francis Ngannou is months away from being able to compete after completely shredding his knee leading up to a fight in January. Where he’ll compete is a big question mark, as Ngannou’s UFC contract is out of fights and on the verge of expiring after five years.
Ngannou has been relatively quiet over the past few months, and some questioned whether his stance on staying with UFC had softened now that he was no longer being represented by Hollywood talent agency, CAA, whom UFC President, Dana White, hates with the power of a thousand suns.
But, in a new podcast with Joe Pompliano, Ngannou sounds just as fed up with UFC’s power structure and unfair contracts as ever. When asked who he’d fight next, Ngannou admitted he had no idea.
“Maybe Jon Jones, if we get things sorted out,” he said. “Because this contract situation hasn’t been sorted.”
As for whether he felt fighters in general were treated fairly, he simply pointed to his own experience.
“For myself, no. Definitely not. I wasn’t treated fair,” Ngannou said. “Because I stand for something, I asked for something. I ran into Dana earlier and we were pretty cool, but my relationship with Dana was very good at the beginning until I mentioned something about the fighter contract. And not on purpose, I think I said something like ‘Oh we can negotiate after every fight.’ That wasn’t even in public. Just in a room the two of us. But I didn’t know how big the mistake to say you can negotiate.
“When you think about it, it’s a business that’s built on holding, controlling people, and you say you can negotiate after every fight?” he continued. “No, that’s when everything went south. The contract that I had was the contract that I signed five years ago. Usually almost nobody stays in the contract five years. It’s just to hold you, to have control. After a year and a half, two years, they’ll come to re-negotiate and add double. But they know by the time they come to double, your value is like five times what it is. So they always have a step on you and you can’t say no because if you say no, you still have years in that contract and you’re probably running out of money.
“They know what they’re doing, it’s business,” he continued. “And then you will sign, and when you sign, it kicks off from the beginning again. So every time you sign a contract you’ll find yourself tied down three years, four years. So if they come and say ‘We’re giving you a new deal, we like you, we’re going to do this for you, take this contract next,’ I said ‘Damn I was gonna fight for $100,000, this is $200,000, how cool is that?’ And you sign. Most people are excited about it.”
The possibility of a fighter’s union came up, and Francis continues to be skeptical that a union could work given how on the edge UFC fighters are kept financially.
“The UFC is gaining more power and the fighter is getting less power,” Ngannou admitted. “Fighter is losing everything. You can’t even speak now, the UFC is so big, so massive. They did a great job, they look on other sports, how the union was built in other sports, and they make sure to avoid that type of business. So they must be about 700 fighters in the UFC roster today. But that 700 fighter, is treated individual case. It’s you against the entire UFC. It’s never ‘you guys’ against the UFC.
“But how you gonna convince that?” he continued. “Some of them, between fights, they’ll run out of money. They have to pay house, have family to take care of. Maybe they’re fighting for $15,000 and that’s all what they get. And you tell them ‘You’re doing union!’ What the hell is that? Union won’t pay his family or his house or his rent or anything. And you can’t blame him.
“That’s something UFC does the best: they control you,” Ngannou added. “And when they think you have something in your mind, they freeze you to make you run out of money. They know how much you’re making. They can imagine how much you’re spending, so they know. In the past three years I was refusing to re-sign a contract. So what happened? I get freezed. 10 to 12 months between each fight. Why? Because I was refusing contract. Now I’m like okay ... let’s wait. They know you’ll run out of money. At that point I needed two to three fights a year to subsidize my lifestyle. They know that and they make sure you don’t have those fights.
“And the contract says you have to fight when they tell you you have to fight,” Ngannou continued. “But your contract does obligate them to give you a fight. They can sit you down for two years. You can’t say anything. So unless they want to make you fight, you won’t fight. So that’s something that caught my attention. What is this contract good for? How this contract protect me, on what? Nothing. I have nothing. When you sign that contract, you give your ownership to the UFC. But technically, it’s not protecting you from nothing, from anything.
“They can cut you whenever they want, they can give you a fight, yes or no, and they don’t have to answer to anybody,” he concluded. “They can do whatever they want. So why am I signing contract? I have no protection in that contract. Unless you can guarantee me something in that contract, there’s not a reason to do a contract. Matter of fact, you say I’m an independent contractor. Let me fight, I can fight for you and fight for someone else. Why am I having exclusive contract with you with no benefit? I’m supposedly an independent contractor.”
Ngannou continues to say he’ll work with UFC if they can sort out a contract that works, but considering he wants to gut all of the provisions in the promotion’s contracts that allow them to maintain an iron grip on the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) in general, that’s not likely. That means we should probably be prepared to watch UFC’s Heavyweight champion walk away and try his hand at boxing. Whether it’s against Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder or someone else in mid-2023 remains to be seen.