Former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou of Cameroon revealed details of one of his last conversations with UFC president Dana White, after which he decided to change the promotion.
Francis Ngannou has no ill will towards the UFC, but says it’s unlikely he will ever return to the promotion.
On Tuesday, news broke that Francis Ngannou signed a lucrative deal with the PFL, ending one of the most high-profile free agencies in MMA history. In a press release announcing the signing, the deal was referred to as a “strategic partnership” for the number of things included outside of a strict fighter promotion agreement, including equity in the promotion and role within the company as chairman of PFL Africa.
And while the fight terms of the partnership are limited, with the contract only covering a few bouts under the banner, “The Predator” says it’s unlikely he ever returns to the octagon.
“I didn’t like the way that things played out,” Francis Ngannou said Tuesday on The MMA Hour when asked if the door for a return was closed. “Before my last fight, when I fought Ciryl Gane, I met with Dana [White] in a restaurant. … I went to him, we spoke, I said, ‘I appreciate everything that you’ve done for me. I appreciate all the help, but at this point I feel like I don’t belong anymore. I feel like I’m not in the promotion. I’m in a fight in the promotion and I don’t know exactly how I got into a fight with the promotion.’ And he was like, ‘Yes, we want you here. I think you have to change your team,’ or something.
“I was like, ‘I feel like I’ve been in a promotion lately without a promoter. I don’t have a promoter anymore.’ I said this to him, ‘I don’t feel like I belong.’ [White said,] ‘What do you mean? Have you ever wanted to come to an event and you don’t get tickets? Or have you ever wanted to go to the P.I. and couldn’t access?’ For a moment I thought about it and I was like, this guy is so good. Look at how he switched the situation. So I’m working my whole life to have access to events and the P.I.?
“Anyway, personally, I talked to him man to man, like, I’m cool. I’m just not happy with how our business [was] going, that’s all.”
Francis Ngannou’s split from the UFC was contentious verging on acrimonious at times. After successfully defending his heavyweight title against Gane at UFC 270, Francis Ngannou fulfilled the fight obligations of his contract with the promotion and could not come to terms to re-sign, which led to a public falling out, with White saying that Francis Ngannou will “never be in the UFC again.
” That’s a major departure from the UFC’s split with superstar Nate Diaz last year, wherein Diaz similarly fought out his contract and exited the promotion for greener pastures, but has been welcomed back with open arms to other UFC events, with White even telling Diaz “This is always your f****** house.”
Why the two fighters have drawn such a different reaction from White, Francis Ngannou doesn’t know.
“I think the person to answer that question best is Dana White,” Ngannou said when asked why the UFC is open to Diaz’s return. “Listen, we have a long relationship. I respect that. I respect what the UFC has done for me. I appreciate them. I moved forward with my life. I had a contract, I fulfilled the contract, we couldn’t agree on another one. Then I went on my [own]. We should be able to go [our own ways] without bad blood.
“I don’t have anything personal. I’m just doing business. I’m obligated to do what is good for me, and I’m sorry if what is good for me is bad for somebody. As long as I don’t personally hurt you, I’m just doing what is good for me. The rest, I don’t care. Why should I be upset? Everything has worked out very well for me, so I’m good.”
Though he is now a PFL fighter, “The Baddest Man on the Planet” is instead still pursuing a boxing bout with one of the major names in the sport. He is expected to make his PFL debut in 2024.