UFC 270 ended with an interesting fight between heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou and interim champion Ciryl Gane. After all the drama surrounding the two former teammates and Ngannou’s issues with the UFC, it was hard for the fight to live up to the hype. Gane clearly wasn’t interested in standing in front of Ngannou’s fearsome power, and Ngannou wasn’t interested in letting Gane stay two steps ahead of him.
So we got what we got: two rounds of Ciryl successfully picking Francis apart on the outside … and then three rounds of Francis taking Ciryl down and controlling him for the win (watch the highlights here). It was an obvious enough result in hindsight, especially after learning that Ngannou had blown out his knee a month before the bout.
Also both obvious but still somewhat surprising: UFC president Dana White snubbing his heavyweight champ. He left the traditional belt handover to matchmaker Mick Maynard and then skipped out the post-fight press conference as well. Perhaps he was unimpressed with the tactical heavyweight fight. Perhaps he didn’t want to answer endless questions about Ngannou’s impending free agency. Either way, it was just another sign of the rift between promotion and champion.
When asked about White’s absense following the fight, Ngannou shrugged.
“I don’t know, you’ll have to ask him,” he said. “No, I did not have anything to do about that. I think that was their decision, I was about to ask about that too.”
Ngannou’s reaction was guarded and wry. He knew he’d be asked and he was prepared. He wasn’t prepared when reporters revealed White hadn’t bothered to do any press conference duties, and it showed.
“He didn’t come to the press conference?” Ngannou repeated, a dawning mixture of confusion and hurt on his face. “Ah. Well. I didn’t know that.”
“Well it’s been a long time that I’ve been wondering about my future in the company, so … nothing has changed, I’m still in the same position.”
Ngannou split the press conference between talk of the fight and his future with the UFC, which understandably doesn’t seem too bright.
“It’s not simply money. I mean obviously, money is a part of it, but it’s also the terms of the contract that I don’t agree with,” Ngannou said. “I don’t feel like it’s fair. I don’t feel like I’m a free man. I don’t feel like I’ve been treated good. And it’s unfortunate that I have to be in this position, to be able to do that, to say that. I feel like everyone should have the right to claim for what’s best for them. At the end of the day, we put a lot of work for this job, we take a lot on our body to make it happen, so at least we can have a fair and square deal.”
When asked if he’d go to the UFC or wait for them as far as future negotiations went: “Well, I’ve been going to the UFC a lot. So I’ve kind of exhaust all my options.”
Ngannou just fought out the last fight on his contract, but a champion’s clause remains that locks him in for a further three fights or until December 2022. White has said he’d only ask for one more fight from Ngannou, but it sounds like Ngannou is perfectly happy sitting out til December, something that wouldn’t be an issue for him even without the bad knee injury.
“In the past three years I have fought three times, so what does that mean? Once a year,” Ngannou said. “So it wouldn’t be something strange. I’m not frustrated about anything, my friend. I’m at peace with myself and my decisions.”
Asked how he felt about the whole situation with the UFC, Ngannou said the whole thing was beyond his personal thoughts on the rift.
“Well it’s been a long time and a lot of things have been going on,” he said. “So at this point I think my feelings don’t matter. I been feeling a lot of things in the past year, I expressed my willingness to stay in the UFC, to have a contract, just to be respected. And the only reason we’re here I think is because at some point I wasn’t respected.”
“It could have taken way less to get this deal done but he went to power position and it kind of get everyone frustrated, get me frustrated. Lost the feeling, the desire of doing things. I get in this sport — I didn’t grow up dreaming about this sport. I just got into it because it was fun and all this stuff. Then you get to the point where you find another part of the sport which is not fun. Which is frustrating. It kind of like mess with your mind.”
“But I’m pretty good trying to stay focus, just think about the sport and nothing around it and hope that things go away.”
Ngannou managed to shut out all the noise on fight night at UFC 270 and take care of business. And in French he struck an extra note of defiance after all the drama he had to deal with over the past year.
“It’s a message that I sent,” he declared. “That I was the champion, I am the champion, and I remain the champion. Independent of everything that’s going on, in the end I’m the boss, and I proved that tonight.”