Ariel Helwani: How Do You Not Applaud Francis Ngannou In UFC Saga?

Mixed martial arts journalist Ariel Helwani has questioned how anyone could criticize heavyweight Francis Ngannou for his decision to leave the UFC.

After eight years, 14 fights, 10 knockouts, and one title reign, Ngannou’s time fighting on MMA’s biggest stage has come to an end. The conclusion of his Octagon stay, which has appeared to be a possibility ever since the start of his contractual dispute with the UFC in late 2021, was confirmed this past weekend.

During the UFC Vegas 67 post-fight press conference, Dana White revealed that “The Predator” had been stripped of the title after turning down the promotion’s final offer. With that, the UFC waved its right to match, leaving Ngannou as an unrestricted free agent.

Francis Ngannou
Image Credit: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

In the aftermath of the major announcement, the MMA community has been largely split. A number of fans, pundits, and fighters have come out in support of Ngannou, including Eddie Alvarez. The former lightweight champion criticized White’s claim that the Cameroonian is departing in search of “lesser” opposition.

Some, though, have accused Ngannou of overplaying his hand, while others have questioned whether the grass is greener outside the UFC for him. That includes former middleweight titleholder Michael Bisping, who recently suggested that Ngannou has “mishandled” the situation.

For Helwani, however, anyone in the latter group needs to question their views on the saga.

Helwani: ‘Check Yourself If You’re Sh**ting On Ngannou’

During a recent episode of The MMA Hour, Helwani reacted to the confirmation of Ngannou’s exit from the UFC, which will see the returning Jon Jones now fight for the vacant heavyweight belt against Ciryl Gane on March 4.

After making note of Ngannou’s inspirational journey from a childhood of poverty in Cameroon to top of the food chain in mixed martial arts, the Canadian reporter questioned how anyone could criticize a man who’s given himself “hope” once more.

“He has hope again,” Helwani said. “How do you not celebrate that? How do you not applaud that? How do you sh*t on that guy? Check yourself if you’re one of those sh*tting on that guy, and I know there will be some people saying, ‘You’re defending him, blah, blah, blah.’ How do you read that (Ngannou’s past) knowing what we know about this guy and what he’s overcome, and then listen to that press conference and not wanna pull whatever hair is on your head?

“This man now has hope, and that’s all he’s ever wanted, and that has been the engine to get him from Cameroon to here, to where there are boxing promoters who are gonna wanna work with him (and) are other MMA promoters that are gonna wanna work with him. This is the best heavyweight on the planet… Now a free man. You can say what you want about his decisions… this is a free man who is representing himself,” Helwani added. “This guy is doing it on his own. How do you not applaud that?”

After working in a sand mine in his native Batié, a 26-year-old Ngannou looked to pursue his dream of becoming a boxer. With that, he embarked on a treacherous journey across Africa, culminating in a life-threatening row into international waters between Morocco and Spain.

Following a stint in a Spanish prison, “The Predator” made his way to Paris, France, where his combat sports dream altered to mixed martial arts. But in recent years, Ngannou’s desire to enter the ring has firmly been on display.

With the freedom of free agency, many expect the Cameroon native to pursue a boxing match, something that appears to have been the main component in the breakdown of negotiations with the UFC.

Do you agree with Ariel Helwani’s take on the Francis Ngannou/UFC split?

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