Monday, October 3, 2022

Sonnen: Ngannou Needs To Accept That UFC Doesn’t Need Him

Former UFC title challenger Chael Sonnen has looked to send some difficult truths the way of reigning heavyweight king Francis Ngannou.

Throughout 2022, Ngannou has been locked in a contractual dispute with the UFC. While his gripes with the promotion began with the creation of an interim title just five months after his crowning at UFC 260, the story turned to the Cameroonian’s expiring contract this past January.

At UFC 270, Ngannou collided with Ciryl Gane in a unification showdown. While a defeat would have left “The Predator” out of contract and with a weakened negotiating position, many expected a win and the initiation of the champion’s clause to favor Ngannou.

It looked like he’d achieved the latter by outpointing “Bon Gamin” courtesy of a strong grappling display from rounds three to five in the pay-per-view’s main event.

Having entered the contest with a damaged ACL and torn MCL, Ngannou was forced to undergo surgery, leaving him on the sidelines ever since. Now eight months on from his victory over Gane, the champ looks no closer to agreeing a new deal with the MMA leader.

Throughout the public dispute, it’s appeared that one of Ngannou’s key demands is the freedom to be able to explore opportunities outside the Octagon — most notably, a crossover boxing collision with WBC Champion Tyson Fury.

But while Ngannou seems to be holding firm with his demands, he’s been advised by one former UFC star to acknowledge that the writing is already on the wall.

Sonnen: ‘The Evidence Is There, Ngannou’s Test Failed’

During a video recently uploaded to his YouTube channel, former middleweight and light heavyweight title challenger Chael Sonnen assessed Ngnnou’s latest update on his ongoing standoff with the UFC.

“The American Gangster” noted that Ngannou has tested a “theory” on his status in the promotion for almost a year. Citing his age, injury layoff, and the current perception of the heavyweight devision, Sonnen appeared to suggest that the ship has sailed for Ngannou’s hard stance.

“Francis Ngannou has made a statement. Francis has said there’s no new contract that’s been sent over and he’s in no hurry,” Sonnen said. “Francis has one skill: he’s a really big man, and he can hit people and knock them down. There’s nothing else to put on a résumé… He is (35 years old)… coming off an injury in the most coveted division in combat history, that no one is watching.

“The organization that you’re attempting to give the push and the pull — hey, sometimes you gotta test those things. Sometimes you get a theory and you gotta test it. But it’s been tested for just shy of a year. The organization is moving along,” Sonnen added.

Further clarifying his take, Sonnen claimed that it’s become clear that neither the UFC nor the fanbase are crying out for Ngannou’s return. Given that the promotion may not need or want “The Predator,” the former WEC competitor called on Ngannou to realize that “business is fine” without his presence.

“That’s very tough to realize that they don’t need me. The fans are not taking to the streets with the pitchforks and the lanterns that I thought they were going to,” Sonnen said. “Business is fine without me. The most anticipated return to the sport is a potential future opponent of mine, not mine. These things are hard.

“Those things, they weren’t overly nice… I am in a position to be a little bit critical. You think maybe that doesn’t feel good, to find out you’re not needed and possibly not even wanted,” Sonnen continued. “35, coming off an injury, and people aren’t clamoring for my return… in a division that has been coveted from the beginning of time… and that’s the one people are focusing on the least.”

Ultimately, whilst Sonnen respects Ngannou’s decision to pursue the path he has, the 45-year-old believes that enough evidence has been gathered for the Cameroonian to reach a conclusion about where he stands — and Sonnen doesn’t think it’s the one that Ngannou would have been hoping for.

“Francis has not misplayed anything… Francis took a shot. He had a theory and he tested it,” Sonnen stated. “Somebody’s gonna have to sit this to him and explained this to him… Francis now has the evidence that he needs. It’s all around him. The most talked about heavyweight fight right now — and we understand that Francis is almost healthy, but we’re still not talking about that — is Stipe (Miocic) versus (Jon) Jones.

“We did this publicly… there’s data, there’s a focus group, there’s a jury of your peers, but the decision is in… the reality is here for Francis, the demands, the boxing, Tyson Fury, and holding out with the organization. The evidence is here,” Sonnen concluded.

Following his triumph at UFC 270, Ngannou insisted that he’s willing to do “whatever it takes” to get what he wants. With that in mind, it’s perhaps unlikely that he’ll easily turn the knob of the same door that Sonnen has landed at.

Either way, with his recovery from surgery appearing to be reaching its end, we’re likely to find out soon enough.

Do you agree with Chael Sonnen’s assessment of Francis Ngannou?

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