Dana White extends olive branch to Francis Ngannou

UFC boss Dana White was uncharacteristically diplomatic about Francis Ngannou's boxing debut.

By: Zane Simon | 1 month ago
Dana White extends olive branch to Francis Ngannou
Dana White at UFC 288. | Louis Grasse / ZUMA Wire, IMAGO

By the time that Francis Ngannou had made his exit from the UFC and signed to PFL, his working relationship with Dana White appeared to be all but destroyed. The two men had battled back and forth through the media for months trading passive aggressive barbs and seemingly, only very rarely looking to hash things out behind the scenes.

“No. We negotiated with him for years,” Dana White told reporters at UFC 285, when asked if Ngannou might ever return to the UFC. “It’s over, that’s over. He’ll never be in the UFC again. … I never say never, but I’ll give you a never on that one. We tried.”

Following Ngannou’s fight with Tyson Fury this past weekend, however, it seems White is—if not ready to welcome Ngannou back—at least not trying to bury him anymore.

Dana White reacts to Francis Ngannou vs. Tyson Fury

In a recent appearance on Donald Trump Jr.’s Triggered podcast, Dana White took some time to talk about the fight business. Most notably, about Francis Ngannou’s recent boxing debut. Even though he admitted he hadn’t actually seen the fight, White had nothing but good things to say about it as an achievement for the former UFC heavyweight champion.

“The fact that he went 10 rounds with Tyson Fury is crazy,” White said (transcript via MMA Fighting). “He just went 10 rounds with Tyson Fury, Conor [McGregor] made it 9 or 10 with Floyd, Anthony Pettis just beat Roy Jones Jr. – I know Roy is friggin’ 60 years old or whatever, but I don’t know what the hell is going on. It’s crazy.

“I didn’t see the fight, but the fact that he went 10 rounds is unbelievable.”

As to future UFC talents who may want to try their hand in the boxing ring? The UFC CEO didn’t exactly sound hyped by the idea, but also didn’t sound like he was pressed by any need to stop it from happening either.

“Listen, these guys, at some point, everybody is going to move on,” White explained. “Everybody has to do what’s right for them and make money for their families, so whatever they’ve got to do, they’ve got to do.”

UFC re-writes ‘sunset clause’ for fighters

Then again, the reason Dana White doesn’t sound too pressed about the idea of more star fighters trying to make the jump to boxing might be because the UFC has already worked to close up the loophole that allowed Francis Ngannou to make the jump to boxing.

When Ngannou left the UFC, as a title holding champion, it was because the contract he signed had a 5-year ‘sunset clause’. Which meant that if he completed all the bouts on his original contract, and didn’t sign another one, his contract would end 5-years after the date he signed it, no matter whether he was champion or not.

As was revealed recently in the UFC lawsuit, however, newer contracts from the promotion give a lot more leeway for Dana White & Co. to keep talent on lockdown for however long they want. Bloody Elbow’s John Nash explained the changes in a recent podcast episode.

“The first set of changes to the clause was noted when Taila Santos’ contract was made public after it appeared in an unrelated court case. Two alterations were clear:

  • The five year sunset provision would now kick in on the date of the first fight on the contract, rather than the previous iteration where it began the day you singed the contract
  • The contract could be ‘paused’ in cases of suspension (could possibly include medical suspensions)

“On top of those changes, a brand new one is here, and it’s even more restrictive. Basically, what it says is that if you turn down fights and the UFC doesn’t think you have a legitimate enough reason to turn down said fights, they can again pause the five year period. Let’s say it’s the third year of a fighter’s contract and they decide, ‘You know what, I don’t like what I’m being offered, I’m just going to wait out my contract’. Well, the UFC can say that you are refusing to take a legitimate offer, and that five year period will be paused. So it ruins the whole purpose of a sunset clause.”

Francis Ngannou on Dana White

As for whether or not Francis Ngannou is going to see Dana White’s words as a potential change of heart from the UFC boss? Maybe there’s still some room for the two men to find common ground.

Following his fight with Fury, the 37-year-old was asked about White and if he had any words for the promoter now that he’d so obviously shattered expectations. The ‘Predator’ seemed entirely at peace with his past feud with White.

“Who cares?” Ngannou said when asked about Dana White on a recent episode of the MMA Hour. “Dana White feels like Dana White feels. I feel like I feel. Personally I feel great. I think you have to send him an invite so you can ask him. I would like to know, too.”

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About the author
Zane Simon
Zane Simon

Zane Simon is a senior editor, writer, and podcaster for Bloody Elbow. He has worked with the website since 2013, taking on a wide variety of roles. A lifelong combat sports fan, Zane has trained off & on in both boxing and Muay Thai. He currently hosts the long-running MMA Vivisection podcast, which he took over from Nate Wilcox & Dallas Winston in 2015, as well as the 6th Round podcast, started in 2014. Zane is also responsible for developing and maintaining the ‘List of current UFC fighters’ on Bloody Elbow, a resource he originally developed for Wikipedia in 2010.

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