UFC 270: Ciryl Gane vs Francis Ngannou How champ’s contract dispute looms over upcoming title fight
In a sense, Francis Ngannou has two fights on his hands: one against former teammate Ciryl Gane and another with the UFC.
Ngannou, the reigning UFC heavyweight champion, has vowed to focus on his upcoming title-unification bout with interim champ Gane, but the fight with his promoter – over a new contract and how he’s been treated since winning the title – is bound to continue after UFC 270 on Jan. 22.
UFC 270: Ciryl Gane vs Francis Ngannou
UFC 270 represents the final bout on Ngannou’s contract. If he wins and retains the title, a champion’s clause would kick in that allows the UFC to extend his deal with more fights, although details are unclear. If Ngannou loses, he essentially would become a restricted free agent, with the UFC maintaining an exclusive 90-day negotiating period in which the promotion could match any offers unless it decided to let him walk free.
The relationship between Ngannou and the UFC went sideways earlier this year after he declined a proposed June 12 rematch with Derrick Lewis, which would’ve been 11 weeks after winning the belt. That prompted the promotion to make an interim heavyweight title fight between Gane and Lewis for Aug. 7 at UFC 265, which Ngannou didn’t appreciate. In response, UFC president Dana White publicly ripped Ngannou’s manager, Marquel Martin of Creative Arts Agency, saying he’s “so full of sh*t.”
(It should be noted that CAA is a direct competitor to UFC parent company Endeavor.)
Still, according to Martin, the goal always has been to come to terms on a new deal with the UFC – as long as it makes sense for Ngannou. That last part has been a sticking point for the UFC, which is notorious for being hard-nosed when it comes to fighter contract disputes.
“From the beginning, we’ve always and still do remain, like, open to negotiating with the UFC,” Martin said on Sirius XM’s “Throwing Down with Renee and Miesha.” “Even from my standpoint and his representation’s standpoint, UFC is the best MMA promoter in the game, in the business. However, where a lot of people don’t want to come out and say or mean is that it has to make sense for the client. It has to make sense for Francis.
“At the end of the day, I work for Francis, and he and I spent a lot of time chatting back and forth and trying to understand, OK, exactly what does that mean for his future, and we’ve had a lot of back and forth with the UFC. But to be honest with you, I haven’t heard back from the UFC since, I want to say, June.”
While Martin said he hasn’t heard from the UFC in six months, White said he had “a good talk” directly with Ngannou earlier this week. White also took more shots at Martin and CAA.
“Francis and I bumped into each other the other night at dinner, and we had a good talk,” White said on “The FIGHT with Teddy Atlas.” “He’s not out under contract with us if he wins that fight. I think he’s got one more with us after that. But I say it all the time: This sport’s fun for me. And contrary to the narrative out there, we’ve made a lot of people very wealthy. And if you don’t want to be here, and this is not where you want to be, well that’s not fun for you, and it’s definitely not fun for me, either.
“These are all grown men and women, and they all make their own decisions in life and go down their own paths. But I think Francis and I had a good conversation, and I think Francis has been misguided, too, by some people that aren’t very bright. That doesn’t help, either. You got some people that have no f*cking clue what they’re talking about. That doesn’t help your situation.”
Martin maintains that negotiating with the UFC is “not all about money,” and he will continue to act in the best interest of his client.
“What does representation look like in your mind, UFC? To say yes to every single thing that you do?” Martin said. “Am I supposed to take you out to dinner, be your best friend? No, I have a fiduciary obligation to my client, and the facts are, OK, if you want to judge me and try to put me out of business for whatever reason and bully me publicly, I don’t respond to that. CAA doesn’t respond to that. We know how to do our job. We’re very competent at what we do.”