Following the recent UFC Vegas 73 fight card, UFC president Dana White fielded a question from the MMA media regarding PFL signing former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou to a lucrative contract. One of the first comments White made about the deal was, “The day that we released him, I knew exactly what was going to happen.”
The problem with White’s remark, which went unchecked by the access media in attendance at the UFC Apex, and many other outlets that covered the press conference, is that it’s untrue.
Media coverage of Dana White’s claim
A fair number of MMA sites reported on White’s statement that the promotion released Ngannou as a fact, simply transcribing what White said during the press conference.
Some of the MMA sites that were guilty of not providing full context on Ngannou’s contract and White’s claims that the organization “released” him were: MMA Mania, MMA Fighting, Bleacher Report, MMA Weekly, Fansided, and to some extent, even here in Bloody Elbow.
Meanwhile, in their reporting, MMA Junkie correctly noted that, “Ngannou departed the UFC in January following the conclusion of his promotional agreement…”
The reality of the situation
The reality is that the UFC did not release Francis Ngannou. Ngannou’s contract expired in December. As John Nash recently noted, “Ngannou was able to eventually fight out his contract, thanks in large part to the introduction of a termination date (“sunset clause”) into UFC contracts back in 2017—apparently in response to the ongoing antitrust lawsuit. Even with his time off for injuries and an extension for the champion’s clause, Francis Ngannou’s contract terminated 5 years after he signed it.”
White initially made the claim that the promotion had released Ngannou in mid-January, saying at that time, after contract negotiations fell apart during the period the organization had to match any offers from other promotions, “We’re going to release him from his contract, give up our right to match. He can go wherever he wants, do whatever he wants.”
Over time, that “give up our right to match,” has morphed into “the day that we released him.”
Why it matters
Reporting that the UFC “released” Francis Ngannou is incorrect. Reporting that the former champ fought out his deal with the promotion and that the fight organization waived its right to match any offers Ngannou received from other promotions is what happened in this case. This might seem like a small detail. It’s not. Transcribing White’s comments without context only further helps change the narrative and push the UFC’s agenda on the subject.
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