It’s a tale as old as time. Whenever a notable, top-tier fighter decides that their goals lie in opposition to the UFC’s president Dana White starts spinning the narrative about how that fighter just doesn’t have the fire for serious competition anymore. He did it to GSP and Eddie Alvarez and Gilbert Melendez, and now he’s doing it to Francis Ngannou.
“I think Francis is in a place right now where he doesn’t want to take a lot of risk,” White told the assembled media of Ngannou’s refusal to sign a new deal with the promotion. “[He] feels he’s in a good position where he could fight lesser opponents and make more money.”
Forget that one of the main driver’s of Ngannou’s exit from the UFC were his hopes of boxing Tyson Fury (a fight he’d almost unquestionably get schooled badly in), but just the basic concept that the world’s top heavyweight, and now-stripped champion was in disagreement with the UFC over level of opposition, or really anything other than money and boxing, just seems entirely, obviously foolish.
Even a long time company man like current UFC talking head and former two division champion Daniel Cormier doesn’t seem to see White’s view on this. In a recent video uploaded to his YouTube channel, Cormier addressed Jon Jones’ upcoming shot for the vacant heavyweight title, and what he thought of Ngannou’s exit.
“Isn’t it ironic that Jon Jones is fighting for a vacant championship? Do you guys remember what I went through when I won the (vacant) belt?” Cormier said. “Now it’s different. Jon hasn’t fought Francis before, but isn’t it ironic that he’s in this situation now? My advice to you, Jon, is get thick skin, because people will be unrelenting. Right now, because Francis left, it’s almost like Francis avoided Jones. That’s not true.
Francis would’ve fought Jon Jones on any day of the week. Let’s not get crazy, fans. Fans always come up with these ideas, but trust me: Jones, it’s going to flip to, ‘Is he the real champion, because he didn’t beat Francis Ngannou?’ if he wins that fight against Ciryl Gane. Which is not guaranteed, because Ciryl Gane is as good as they come.”
Now 35-years-old, Jones hasn’t set foot in the Octagon since vacating his light heavyweight title in 2020. That decision came on the back of two controversial wins over Dominick Reyes and Thiago Santos. Talk of a heavyweight move for Jones has been ongoing for as much as a decade, with the UFC announcing last year, their intention to have Jones face Ngannou (had the ‘Predator’ re-signed to the promotion) for the heavyweight title.
Gane is currently coming off a third round KO win over Tai Tuivasa on September 3rd. That bout acted as a bounce-back for the 32-year-old, following his loss to Ngannou back in January of last year—in the Frenchman’s first bid for heavyweight gold. Gane and Jones are currently set to meet in the main event of UFC 285 on March 4th, with the now-vacant heavyweight title on the line.
About the author: Zane Simon is a senior editor, writer and podcaster for Bloody Elbow. Host of the MMA Vivisection and 6th Round, he has covered MMA and the UFC since 2013. (full bio)
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