The relationship between the MMA leader and one of its top titleholders has certainly been strained for a while. From the promotion’s decision to introduce an interim belt last year — and the level of disrespect Ngannou perceived from that — to an ongoing contractual dispute, a number of factors have led to some cracks appearing.
Things reached a peak in and around UFC 270, where “The Predator” defended his title against the previously undefeated Ciryl Gane. As well as an apparent pre-fight lawsuit threat sent to Ngannou’s manager, Dana White‘s Octagon and press conference absence post-fight caused a stir.
Now, with Ngannou recovering from surgery and targeting a boxing bout with WBC and The Ring Heavyweight Champion Tyson Fury upon his return, there isn’t long for the UFC to agree on a new deal with the Cameroonian.
With that in mind, and with his larger-scale criticism of UFC contracts, you’d perhaps expect Ngannou to be encouraging as many fighters as possible to speak up. On the contrary, the champ doesn’t see the benefit of doing so for most.
Ngannou: I’m Not Sure Others Can Handle This
During a recent appearance on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, Ngannou discussed the impact other fighters could create by voicing their concerns. But according to the heavyweight king, it’s not as straightforward as that.
Ngannou suggested that in most positions, fighters who speak out will be shunned by the organization and unable to handle the response that comes with the kind of persevering stance that “The Predator” has taken.
With that said, Ngannou revealed he’d actually encourage fighters to avoid standing by his side as he strives to bring change.
“It’s easy for people from the outside to just say, ‘Ah, we think fighters should speak’ or, ‘We think some people will support you.’ No, it’s not easy, bro, it’s not easy,” insisted Ngannou. “If they speak out loud in some positions, guess what? Next day, they’re out. They don’t have any voice. They don’t have a chance to speak twice at all. So you kind of understand that, you kind of understand the situation.
“I know what it is, I’m inside. So, I can blame somebody and if somebody say, ‘Yes, I will stand by your side,’ guess what? I will tell him, ‘Don’t do that because it might go south and I’m not sure you’re gonna handle this. But I can take it. Could you? I don’t think so,'” concluded Ngannou.
Some have shared a similar sentiment to Ngannou and used it to explain why an often-called for fighter union is yet to be created. According to UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Julianna Peña, there will always be fighters willing to accept the conditions that others speak out against.
With that in mind, perhaps it’s the protection of a championship that is needed. As well as Ngannou, middleweight king Israel Adesanya has backed Jake Paul’s public campaign to boost fighter pay, while bantamweight titleholder Aljamain Sterling has expressed his desire to see better remuneration in the sport.
Do you agree with Francis Ngannou? Is it dangerous for other fighters to speak out against the UFC?