Ngannou ascended the heavyweight mountaintop this year with a brutal knockout of Stipe Miocic. Since falling short of the title for the first time in 2018, “The Predator” has been unstoppable. On his way to title glory, he knocked out Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos, and Jairzinho Rozenstruik, all in the first round.
Despite winning the belt in March 2021, it’ll have been 10 months since that date when he returns to the Octagon for his first defense. He’ll be doing so in the UFC 270 main event against Ciryl Gane. The Frenchman won the interim title at UFC 265 and will look to dethrone his former teammate on January 22.
Ngannou’s Manager Believes He’s Been Mistreated
There’s a lot more riding on the first pay-per-view main event of 2022 than just heavyweight glory. Ngannou has had a public feud with the UFC for months, something which started with the promotion’s decision to introduce interim gold. Beyond that, contractual issues have left the champ’s future unknown as he heads towards the final fight of his active deal.
Ngannou’s manager, Marquel Martin, recently discussed the current situation during an appearance on Throwing Down with Renee Maquette and Miesha Tate. He pinpointed the first issue as the level of activity for the current titleholder.
“I think for starters, Francis would love to have more activity. When have you really seen Francis have more than two fights in the last however many years in one year? He’s not as active as other heavyweights. Why? Because of me? Because of him? That’s a lie. [Laughs] That’s just what it is. From taking my manager hat off and just putting a fan hat on, I would love for the UFC to understand what Francis is about and understand his story. I feel like having an interim title was their decision. But was it really valid or warranted? Was it necessary?”
The original plan was seemingly to have Ngannou defend the title against Derrick Lewis at UFC 265. But when the Cameroonian was unable to make that date due to travel complications in Africa, the promotion’s desire to keep “The Black Beast” on the Houston-held PPV card saw them create an interim strap, a decision that came in spite of Ngannou’s ability to defend the belt a month later in September.
That move, along with a culmination of frustrations, has left Martin and Ngannou disappointed in the way he’s been portrayed as champion. According to the manager, his client has never been promoted positively by the UFC since losing to Miocic in 2018, representing the second issue that needs resolving before Ngannou re-signs.
“Again, Francis, their heavyweight champion, the guy who’s been saying yes to all the fights, hasn’t declined fights, hasn’t anything, first UFC heavyweight champion from Africa to ever happen, and then interim champion. So I know Francis was very heartbroken over that because it’s like, ‘Hey, what else do you guys want me to do?’ If you guys look back at Francis’ track record, after he lost to Stipe, tell me when you really feel that Francis has been really promoted in a positive light.”
The tense relationship between Ngannou’s camp and the UFC has even seen the promotion’s president, Dana White, lash out at the heavyweight’s management team. White suggested “The Predator” doesn’t have the best representation.
Addressing those comments, Martin slammed the comments as a “false narrative,” and suggested he isn’t the UFC”s favourite person because he simply works to achieve what’s best for his client. In his mind, the real issue is Ngannou not getting the love and appreciation he deserves.
“You hear this false narrative of representation. No, what does representation look like in your mind, UFC? To say yes to every single thing that you do? Am I supposed to take you out to dinner? Be your best friend? No, I have a fiduciary obligation to my client. And the facts are, OK, if you want to judge me and try to put me out of business for whatever reason and try to bully me publicly, I don’t respond to that. CAA doesn’t respond to that. We know how to do our job. We’re very competent in what we do.
“But when it comes to let’s look at the facts of Francis. After Stipe won, where do you really see Francis getting the love that I feel—again, call me biased—but this guy, he’s not in trouble with the law. [Laughs] This guy is one of the finest human beings that you will ever meet. But you don’t hear about his story.
“You don’t see this world tour and UFC going back to Africa with Francis. We did that. We did that on our own. So as a UFC heavyweight champion, how are you supposed to feel? After three months, what are you supposed to do?”
With negotiations appearing to stall, it remains to be seen what a victory or defeat at UFC 270 will mean for Ngannou’s future. If Gane leaves the cage with the undisputed title, perhaps we’ll see the Cameroon native test the waters of other promotions.
Do you agree with Francis Ngannou’s manager? Is the champ under appreciated by the UFC?