Francis Ngannou Says UFC Used Randy Couture Example To Warn Against Leaving

Former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou spoke with Randy Couture prior to exiting the promotion after the MMA legend was used as a deterrent.

The lengthy contractual dispute between Ngannou and mixed martial arts’ premier promotion reached its conclusion earlier this month, with the heavyweight gold becoming vacant and “The Predator” entering unregistered free agency.

The announcement came around a month after the Cameroon native’s deal expired, with the UFC still holding matching rights at the time. While the promotion claims to have been willing to make him the highest-paid heavyweight of all time, Ngannou has since noted that it was unwilling to budge on a number of other demands.

That seemingly included contract length, fighter health insurance, and an athlete advocate in board meetings.

With that, Ngannou wasn’t willing to get locked into another deal that he perceived to be restrictive and is seeking pastures new. And he’s doing so following some apparent assurances from a legend who went through a somewhat similar scenario.

Ngannou Spoke To Couture Following UFC Caution

Following the announcement of his UFC exit, Ngannou spoke with Ariel Helwani on a special episode of The MMA Hour. During the interaction, the now-former heavyweight champ discussed his relationship with Dana White, responding to some of the claims made during the UFC president’s press conference.

For the Cameroonian, White’s irritation derives from the fact he created a new scenario for the promotion — the departure of a reigning champion.

There are, of course, other examples of titleholders looking to leave, but not as cleanly as Ngannou has managed. As well as then-welterweight king BJ Penn exiting in 2004, Randy Couture announced his decision to severe ties with the UFC in 2007 whilst holding the heavyweight gold.

Both instances saw lawsuits filed before quick returns to the Octagon, with “The Natural” noting that he spent $500,000 fighting the promotion in court.

With that in mind, Ngannou claimed that UFC executives sought to use Couture’s efforts as a warning against seeking an exit. But ensuring he did his homework, “The Predator” told Helwani that he spoke with the former two-division champion, concluding that the two disputes have major differences.

“He (White) saw his champion go away, which is something that probably never happened to him,” Ngannou said. “Matter of fact, two years ago, they were betting on that. Like, ‘OK, you think you can leave the UFC? That’s never happened. Go ask Randy Couture.’ Then, I (asked) Randy Couture what happened, he explained to me, and (I said) ‘OK, this is a different situation.’”

Ngannou has now exited following the five-year expiration of his deal in December, which came 11 months after a victory over Ciryl Gane. While that bout marked the final on his initial deal, his grip on the gold enacted the champions clause.

For Couture, his decision to attempt to leave in pursuit of further remuneration and a clash with Fedor Emelianenko came with the promotion stating that he had two bouts remaining on his contract.

After a lengthy dispute in court, Couture signed a new three-fight deal and returned to defend the heavyweight title in 2008, falling to Brock Lesnar at UFC 91. He fought a further five times in the Octagon before retiring.

What’s your take on the UFC’s use of Randy Couture to warn Francis Ngannou against free agency?

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