Francis Ngannou vs. Dana White: The Real Main Event of UFC 270
Francis Ngannou vs. Ciryl Gane isn’t the only dispute being settled at UFC 270
The first PPV event of 2022 goes down this Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. Headlined by a showdown of titans, fight fans around the globe will have the answer to whether Ciryl Gane’s precise striking and fight IQ can best the unbridled power and explosiveness of Francis Ngannou.
It’s a question MMA fans have been biting at the bit to get an answer to, as the rivalry between the former teammates has created some dynamic tension leading up to the heavyweight championship. Unlike most divisions, heavyweight is the weight class where even the more technical fighter can get the lights shut off with just one punch.
And yet, despite the rivalry, despite the drama of former teammates confronting each other in the Octagon, the battle between Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane isn’t the most compelling one heading into UFC 270. The real stakes are in the feud between Francis Ngannou, Dana White, and the UFC.
The drama links back, as it often does, to Jon Jones. When Francis Ngannou knocked out Stipe Miocic to become the undisputed heavyweight champion back at UFC 260 in March of last year, Jones was very vocal about wanting to challenge himself in a showdown with the heavy-handed Cameroonian. However, it had to be at the right price. Roughly $30 million, according to claims by Dana White.
Francis was all about it. He knew what a heavyweight championship bout against Jon Jones would represent, and he wanted to be paid. Of course, Jones did what Jones does best: he shot that potential matchup in the foot by getting embroiled in legal problems. So while Francis opted to wait out an opportunity to fight Jones, the UFC decided to move on.
Dana White criticized Ngannou for not taking a fight with Derrick Lewis, who wound up losing to Ciryl Gane in an interim championship bout just five months after Ngannou vanquished Miocic. Like Jones before him, Ngannou has become increasingly vocal about wanting to earn more closely to what he perceives his worth is as the hardest hitting heavyweight champion in UFC history.
Things get particularly intriguing when you consider the fact that UFC 270 is the last fight on Francis Ngannou’s contract. It seems like a part between himself and the organization is inevitable, with the Cameroonian brawler interested in a payday crossover fight with Tyson Fury.
When asked if he would be interested in a contract extension with the UFC, Ngannou responded “No, I will not fight for $500,000, $600,000 any more. I mean, it’s over. It’s over. I just did this. I took this fight for a personal reason, and I want to make sure that regardless, even if it’s unfair, I have been wrongly treated, I can make my case to say I have completed the eight fights. But no.”
Dana White has responded that a departure with the current heavyweight kingpin would be no problem for him. The UFC president stated “Look, if you want to be with us, we’d love to have you. If you don’t want to be with us, no problem. It’s all good. I think his contract, and this is off the top of my head, if he wins he still has time with us after this fight. He’d probably have one more fight.”
What White conveniently left out in his response was the fact that the UFC utilized controversial provisions in the contract to automatically extend Ngannou’s original deal. Francis should have been able to get out of his deal in May of last year, but was obligated to stay with the promotion after they enacted the provisions.
In an interview with Ariel Helwani, Ngannou stated that it was the “Championship Clause” that forced him to stay with the current terms in his contract. According to an antitrust complaint filed against Zuffa LLC, the parent company of the UFC, the clause is as follows:
The “Champion’s Clause,” which allows the UFC to extend a UFC Fighter’s contract for as long as the athlete is a “champion” in his or her weight class, preventing the Fighter from financially benefiting from his or her “championship” status by soliciting competing bids from other MMA Promotions even after the end of his or her original UFC contract term. This clause specifically blocks actual or potential rival promotions from having access to Elite Professional MMA Fighters, which are needed for a would-be rival promotion event to be commercially successful. This clause also denies UFC Fighters free agency—despite their being independent contractors—thereby retaining the Fighter’s services for the UFC effectively indefinitely.
This effectively puts Ngannou between a rock and a hard place. By no means does the champion want to lose his belt to a former teammate with whom the relationship has seemingly soured, but at the same time, this forces him to remain on his contract.
Ngannou’s former head coach, Fernand Lopez, had some interesting comments after heavyweight boxing kingpin Tyson Fury floated the idea of a boxing match with Ngannou wearing 4 oz. MMA gloves. He claimed that although Ngannou wouldn’t be able to win, he would take that fight as a way to “cash out.”
One has to wonder whether the appeal of throwing his fight against Gane for a chance at a mega-payday with Fury would convince Francis to swallow his pride for the almighty dollar. Should he knock out Gane, which many people are predicting, he would have to get permission from the UFC to enter a boxing match with Fury. This adds another controversial wrinkle, as it was recently revealed that the UFC claimed up to half of Conor McGregor’s purse when he boxed Floyd Mayweather.
It’s safe to say that after all this back and forth and tension between Ngannou and the UFC, he’s not going to want to share 50% of the biggest purse of his life with the promotion. Regardless of the outcome this Saturday, it seems inevitable that Francis Ngannou will do everything in his power to split from the UFC. All while shining a spotlight on the ever-present controversy revolving around fighter pay.
For this fan and many others, that’s a damned shame. The UFC is better with Francis Ngannou in it. Hopefully the feud between Ngannou, Dana White and the UFC can conclude more peacefully than this upcoming fight will.