Details are unclear on what exactly Francis Ngannou is demanding of the UFC in order to sign a new deal to stay with the organization, but it’s been well documented that a priority on the champion’s wishlist is the possibility to pursue boxing in a potential. game against Tyson Fury.
Ngannou fought out his current contract with a win over Ciryl Gane at UFC 270 and remains at an impasse with the promotion. So far, there’s been no indication that the two sides will find common ground before he becomes a free agent.
While the chance to land a multimillion-dollar payday for a fight against Fury might not be the only thing Ngannou wants, fellow heavyweight Curtis Blaydes doesn’t see why the UFC can’t at least allow him to do the same.
“I think that’s the crux of the matter,” Blaydes recently explained on The fighter against the writer. “You opened the door when you left [Conor] McGregor do it.
“I don’t see any real reason why Francis shouldn’t be allowed to do that. I can’t think of a legitimate reason because McGregor may have done it.
In 2017, when McGregor became the first-ever concurrent two-division champion in UFC history, he was allowed to sign a fight against pound-for-pound boxing king Floyd Mayweather. The fight ended up being one of the highest-grossing events in combat sports history.
McGregor’s star power obviously made the fight against Mayweather very intriguing, but the UFC still had to sign to give him permission as he was under an exclusive contract. While he lost to Mayweather by TKO in the 10th round, McGregor would have still earned north of $100 million for the fight.
Now Ngannou hopes to pursue his own childhood dream by switching to boxing, with Fury having already expressed interest in the fight.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the UFC is as interested this time around, which is why Blaydes is so confused by the situation.
“Yes, there is a risk of injury, but OK, injuries can happen anytime,” Blaydes said. “They can happen in training. That’s not reason enough, especially when he can potentially win [a lot for both sides]even if it’s only $5 million.
“It’s a lot of money. I don’t blame Francis for wanting to take the boxing match. I can’t blame him.
Ngannou’s ongoing battle with the UFC over his contract has also upended the heavyweight division as contenders like Blaydes await the opportunity to one day fight for gold. Moreover, Ngannou’s knee surgery in March is expected to keep him out for about nine or 10 months. This means that even if Ngannou agrees with the UFC on a new contract, he likely won’t return to action until early 2023.
In that regard, Blaydes hopes Ngannou and the UFC can make a decision on his future soon so the rest of the heavyweights can figure out what happens next.
“Hopefully they get there because it slows everything down for everyone else below the division,” Blaydes said. “If Francis has the belt and they fight for a year, then you have to do the interim again and you hope he comes back. It makes it much harder for guys like me to project a path to get to the belt if I don’t know what’s going on with the guy who has the belt.
“Then we still have guys like Jon [Jones], we don’t know what he does. We still have Stipe [Miocic], we don’t know what he does. It would make it a lot easier for guys like me to project if we knew he was going to be in the UFC or if he wasn’t going to be in the UFC. Either way, I just hope they can come to a decision and don’t have to drag things out.
For his part, Blaydes believes the cooler heads will eventually prevail, and Ngannou will make his return to the UFC.
“I know he says it’s not about the money, but it must be a small factor.” said Blaydes. “I’m sure he wants a little raise, and I think they’ll work it out. I think Francis has another really amazing two or three years at heavyweight and then after that it’s going to be a bit of a decline because you get older. He is getting older. He’s what, 36?
“He has a few choice years left and I think the UFC wants those years. You want him under promotion while he still has the juice. I think they’ll be fine, especially because he has the belt. Who helps.”