One of the biggest questions marks in the UFC right now might be what will come of UFC Heavyweight Champion Francis Ngannou next year.
It has been almost a year to the day since the last time Ngannou fought in the Octagon. He last defended his belt against Ciryl Gane at UFC 270 in January. Following that, he had undergone surgery to fix a lingering issue in his knee and has been sidelined ever since.
During his absence, the heavyweight division has remained mostly stagnant. Former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones has been preparing for a jump up in weight and should be making his heavyweight debut soon. The question remains: Wiil Ngannou be around at that point to face him?
Francis Ngannou Has Been Asking For A New Contract From The UFC
Ngannou is set to become a free agent soon as his current contract will expire. He has been publicly unhappy with his pay from the UFC and has been asking for more money and more freedom. He wants the opportunity to try out boxing if he wants to, but the UFC doesn’t seem willing to give that.
Rumors that Ngannou will leave as a free agent have been increasingly subdued as the year comes to a close. There were even rumors that Ngannou vs. Jones could be close to a done deal.
MMA reporter Ariel Helwani gave his thoughts on the progress of Ngannou’s new deal during his show, The MMA Hour.
“Francis is about to become a free agent,” he said. “But I’m hearing that talks are actually pretty good. And you know, you saw Eric Nicksick, his coach referenced March 4, I’ve been saying this. How long have I been saying if they couldn’t get a fight in December for Jones, the March early pay-per-view was when they were going to try to do Jones? The newest stuff is that he’s no longer, Francis, represented by CAA. That opens the door to Endeavor wanting to do business.”
Helwani thinks that the change of representation could allow the UFC’s parent company Endeavor to be more inclined to negotiate with Ngannou. The boxing portion may still be an issue, but Helwani thinks his options may be limited there.
“I feel right now very confident that he’s going to resign. Plus, there’s no Fury fight out there. Unless Fury gets on the mic on Saturday after beating Chisora for the third time, which we all expect is going to happen, and says, Francis, where are you at? It doesn’t seem like Fury is into that anymore, right? He has this change of heart,” he said. “He wants to fight. He wants big fights. He wants to keep going. I would be shocked. Where’s Francis going? Where’s he going? Doesn’t have the leverage that maybe we thought he did.”
Helwani is confident that the UFC will get the deal done and Ngnanou vs. Jones will be set for the March PPV event not yet announced.
Do you think Francis Ngannou should come back to the UFC?