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Francis Ngannou’s coach explains UFC departure: ‘It wasn’t the money’

Much has been said about “The Predator” turning down a contract that would have made him the highest-paid UFC Heavyweight ever. But, according to his coach, his issues weren’t with the amount of zeros on the contract.

UFC 270: Ngannou v Gane Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) announced this past weekend (Sat., Jan. 14, 2023) that Francis Ngannou was being stripped of his Heavyweight title and released by the promotion completely. And while we have heard UFC President Dana White’s take on the situation, we still haven’t heard Ngannou’s.

That’s because the former heavyweight champion has been traveling in Africa. He’ll be joining our sister-site MMA Fighting’s The MMA Hour show today (Tues., Jan. 17, 2023) at 1 p.m. ET to give a full account in his own words what happened that led to the departure. Until then, take a look at what his head coach at XTreme Couture, Erick Nicksick, had to say about the situation.

“I’m an optimistic guy, I thought things would get done and get done the right way, but unfortunately they didn’t,” Nicksick told The Schmo in a new interview. “I know Francis is going to be onto bigger and better things and I’m proud of him. I’m happy for him. He stood his ground. He knew what he wanted and he didn’t budge on what he wanted so kudos to him.”

According to Nicksick, it wasn’t about the amount of money UFC was offering Ngannou. White claimed UFC’s offer would have made “The Predator” the highest-paid heavyweight in UFC history.

“The money was there — that’s not what moves him,” Nicksick said. “It wasn’t the money that was moving him, it was other things, other terms, some sticking points that he couldn’t waver on. So kudos to him. This is what he wanted and that’s why I love the guy.”

Over the last few years, Ngannou had been very vocal about various clauses in UFC’s ironclad contract that he considered exploitative, especially when you consider UFC fighters aren’t considered employees, but independent contractors.

“[Boxing] was definitely something that was a sticking point for him, that he wanted the opportunity to box,” Nicksick said. “I think the definition of ‘independent contractor’ and ‘employee’ was something he wasn’t comfortable with. He wanted the opportunity to ... if someone came along, a higher bidder, he wanted to take that opportunity.”

Ngannou has also complained about how UFC can effectively bench anyone on its roster, toll them so their contracts never run out, and generally make their lives very unpleasant if they don’t agree to whatever UFC wants at any given time. All of these issues he wanted addressed in his new contract. UFC, for its part, wasn’t about to open a Pandora’s Box by making changes to half the standardized clauses in its contract that give them power over fighters.

While a deal didn’t get reached, Nicksick said Ngannou had spent the recent time back at XTreme Couture training for a mixed martial arts (MMA) fight.

“When he got back in the gym and he was full healthy with the knee and he started working, he said to me, legit, ‘I love the fact that I can kick, I can wrestle, I can put a full MMA skill set together because I like that. This is what I miss the most about MMA.’” he said. “But now if he wants to go into boxing he’s going to focus on that one skillset. I think whoever comes to the table with the most amount of money, through whatever that he feels is right for him, if it’s MMA or boxing he’s gonna be ready for it.”

While Nicksick is clearly proud of Ngannou for sticking to his guns during negotiations, he admitted losing the Jones fight hurt.

“That part’s always going to bother me on the competitive side, because Jon Jones is the GOAT to me,” he said. “He’s No. 1 and I think Khabib is right behind him it’s No. 1 and No. 1B in my opinion. So the competitor in me, yes, I’m always going to wish that we had the opportunity to put a gameplan together to execute against who I think is the best ever. So that’s going to bug me, but in the end of the day, man, that opportunity might still be on the table later on down the line.”

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