For the last seven months it looked like a sure thing that Francis Ngannou would be leaving Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) once his contract expires later this year. But, now we’re hearing word that Ngannou and UFC are finally back at the negotiating table ... and things are looking up for a reconciliation.
Ngannou has some pretty big demands if UFC wants him back: he wants to be able to box if a “super” fight comes up. He wants to make sure UFC gives him more fights each year. In general, he wants a lot of the one-sided clauses in the standard UFC contract to be taken out of any future deal. UFC has never been too flexible when it comes to that, so it seemed like things were at loggerheads.
But, according to Ariel Helwani, there’s been good movement on sorting out Ngannou’s concerns, and we could see “The Predator” return to face Jon Jones in March 2023.
“Francis is about to become a free agent,” Helwani said on the latest episode of The MMA Hour. “But, I’m hearing that talks are actually pretty good. You saw Erick Nicksick, his coach, reference March 4th. I’ve been saying this — how long have I been saying if they couldn’t get a fight in December for Jones, the March early PPV was when they were going to try and do Jones vs. Ngannou. I think I may have said it like ten times?
“So none of this is new, the newish stuff is that Francis is no longer represented by CAA, that opens the door for Endeavor wanting to do business,” Helwani continued. “They will do business, and as I’ve said, I think they figure it out and I think he signs and I think they try to make that fight, March 4th.
“That timeline works out, certainly for Jones and maybe even for Francis coming off the knee surgery from many months ago,” Helwani added. “I feel right now very confident that he’s going to re-sign. Plus there’s no [Tyson] Fury fight out there, unless Fury gets on the mic Saturday after beating Chisora for the third time, which we all expect is going to happen. ‘Francis, where you at?’ It doesn’t seem like Fury’s into that any more, right? He has this change of heart and he wants to fight, he wants big fights, he wants to keep going. I would be shocked.”
“Where’s Francis going? He doesn’t have the leverage that maybe he thought he did. And more importantly, doesn’t have the roadblocks.”
“Now a bunch of managers have tried to broker a deal. Francis is standing pat. He is not doing any deals with house managers, he’s not doing any sort of friendly deals, he is sticking to his guns. And I have an infinite amount of respect for him in that regard and in all regards. But when it comes to the business, he’s not one of those guys that’ll say something on Zoom and then does something [different] behind the scenes. I think he’ll get what he wants, to a degree. Obviously he has leverage as UFC heavyweight champion and [Ngannou vs. Jones] would be one of the biggest fights of 2023.
“I feel pretty confident, and this could change tomorrow, but as of right this moment, they’ll figure it out.”
Ngannou wouldn’t be the first UFC fighter given permission to box. The most obvious parallel would be Conor McGregor’s boxing bout against Floyd Mayweather in 2017, which was done as a co-promotion with UFC. Would the promotion also write up a special contract for Ngannou as well? As we mentioned before, UFC typically refuses to change any of the restrictive boilerplate language in its contracts for anyone. If Ngannou can even get some sort of amendment that gives him more control over the when and who of his fight schedule, that would be an impressive and unprecedented accomplishment.
We certainly hope Ngannou re-signs with UFC ... having him cross over into boxing would be a waste of time and talent, even if it would be insanely lucrative. Finally, after months of radio silence, it seems like UFC is willing to hammer out a deal with Ngannou. If the company follows through, it will have an amazing “super” fight in Ngannou vs. Jones to really kickoff 2023 right.