Francis Ngannou hasn’t fought since a January decision win over Ciryl Gane at UFC 270 in January 2022. “The Predator” shredded his knee in training weeks out from that bout, but refused to pull out because he wanted to complete the final fight on his UFC contract. Ngannou and the UFC had been on the outs for over a year, but things really hit their worst on the day of the fight as the UFC threatened to sue Ngannou’s manager.
In a new episode of Ngannou’s Road to Recovery YouTube series, Ngannou’s (reportedly former) manager Marquel Martin detailed the negative vibes they were dealing with coming into the pivotal Gane fight.
“The morning of UFC 270 I get some pretty racist texts, and a little bit threatening,” Martin said. “And you know, listen, it was from a burner phone, but it was sad to see that it’s gotten to this point. And I don’t know who it was. Whoever it was is, you know, to me, a racist coward and probably afraid in what could happen and did happen in Francis being in the position that he’s in today [as a free agent]. But it’s unfortunate, it’s no place in it for society, no place for the sport that we love.”
“To add onto the drama, later on that day we’re getting dressed to go to the arena, I get an email from UFC, kind of a legal letter, maybe a threat to sue,” Martin continued. “But at the time it was just … call it a coincidence, but the timing of it was so interesting to us. I remember showing it to Francis like ‘Hey bro, you know I’m not going to keep anything from you, so listen: this is what I just got, I don’t even know if they’re going to let me into the arena or backstage because I’ve had issues in the past. And in true Francis fashion, he was like ‘So? Let them sue. For what?’”
According to Ngannou, the UFC was threatening to sue Martin for speaking with Jake Paul’s business partner (and former UFC CFO) Nakisa Bidarian.
“For him to not listen to the noise, it was all the negativity, all the bulls— that’s uncalled for and unnecessary, right? Talk about the business after the fight or way before … And we want to talk about contracts the day of his fight? It’s ridiculous. You’re not going up to Lebron James and talking about a contract before game seven of the finals. You’re not doing it. But this is the crazy sport that we’re in and needless to say it was a wild fight week. A crazy, crazy fight day. And at the end of it all, Francis was victorious. We as a team were victorious.”
Martin was the star of this episode but Ngannou put in his two cents throughout.
“I was being frozen because I didn’t want to sign that contract,” Ngannou summed up. “Was having fight like every 10 months or more. And I do believe that was because of that contract situation, because every time I was talking about fight they would bring up the contract. A lot of things got involved and it became more than that.”
“They will fight so hard [against] it, just for you to be free,” he concluded. “They don’t want you to be free. Then as I realized that, it was a goal. I’m like: I will be free, no matter what the price of freedom is never too much.”
While Ngannou’s public content and interviews continue to be extremely pro-free agency, recent reports speculate that negotiations between “The Predator” and the UFC have taken a positive turn in recent weeks. That’s good news for fans eager to see Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou in March 2023, or just Ngannou staying in MMA in general. The longer we’ve had to think about this boxing crossover, the less interested we are. Bring on the heavyweight title defenses!
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