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5 reasons why Francis Ngannou needs to stay with the UFC for the good of his career

Should Francis Ngannou stay with the UFC going forward?
Should Francis Ngannou stay with the UFC going forward?

As 2023 approaches, one big question when it comes to the UFC is what lies in the future for reigning heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou.

Francis Ngannou’s contract with the UFC is expected to expire in late January, so will he stay with the world’s premier MMA promotion, or move onto pastures new?

‘The Predator’ has been at odds with Dana White and the UFC’s management for some time now, even before his most recent title defense against Ciryl Gane. However, could it still be best for him to stay in the fold? The answer, remarkably, is yes.

Here are five reasons why Francis Ngannou must stay with the UFC for the good of his career.


#5. A move to boxing may not end well for Francis Ngannou

Francis Ngannou might struggle in boxing despite his punching power
Francis Ngannou might struggle in boxing despite his punching power

One of the issues that has caused Francis Ngannou to end up at an impasse with the UFC when it comes to signing a new deal is apparently his wish to box professionally.

Ever since Conor McGregor stepped into the boxing ring to face Floyd Mayweather in a megafight in 2017, a number of UFC fighters have expressed an interest in switching sports, and it’s unsurprising that Ngannou is amongst them.

After all, more money can be made in the boxing ring than in MMA, even at the top of the UFC. That's largely because of the differences in how the two sports are promoted. A superfight with someone like Tyson Fury or Anthony Joshua would undoubtedly net ‘The Predator’ untold millions.

However, while Ngannou’s punching power is unparalleled in the UFC, that doesn’t necessarily make him a great striker, per say. In fact, experts in the field would probably argue that the native of Cameroon’s technique is sloppy at times, even if it’s hugely effective in the octagon.

Therefore, it’s likely that a bout with a boxer as good as Fury could go badly wrong for Ngannou, just as McGregor’s fight with Mayweather did.

Sure, ‘The Notorious’ bounced back well from his loss, but Ngannou lacks the star power of the Irishman. So, a bad defeat in the boxing ring may well damage his reputation for good. Put simply, unless he’s planning to do one boxing match and retire afterwards, it just wouldn’t be worth it.


#4. The UFC still offers the most prestige to MMA fighters, including Francis Ngannou

Being a UFC champion offers Francis Ngannou the prestige he wouldn't get elsewhere
Being a UFC champion offers Francis Ngannou the prestige he wouldn't get elsewhere

While rival promotions like the PFL, Bellator and ONE Championship have produced both some great fighters and excellent shows in recent years, there’s no disputing the world’s top MMA promotion is still the UFC.

Essentially, almost every top-ranked fighter in the world is contracted to the UFC. Every year it seems like the champions of rival promotions look to end up there when they get a chance to jump ship.

When you consider that the UFC’s influence reaches so far across the globe, to the point that some people would outright refer to MMA itself as UFC fighting, it’s hard to imagine the promotion being toppled from its spot at the top any time soon.

For a fighter like Francis Ngannou, then, only the UFC can offer the kind of prestige that he deserves at this point in his career. If he were to leave for a rival like Bellator, even if he were able to avoid defeat, it probably wouldn’t take long for many fans to consider a different UFC fighter as the world’s top heavyweight.

FRANCIS NGANNOU IS THE BADDEST MAN ON THE 🌏! #UFC260

Therefore, if ‘The Predator’ wants to continue to build a legacy and not end up as an afterthought in MMA history, the only place for him is the UFC.


#3. Francis Ngannou’s next contract could be the last big one of his career

Francis Ngannou's next contract might be the last big one of his career
Francis Ngannou's next contract might be the last big one of his career

While older heavyweights tend to be able to compete for a longer period of time than their smaller counterparts in MMA, every fighter has their shelf life. While Francis Ngannou is just 36 years old, it’s safe to say he’s getting no younger.

Given that very few fighters remain competitive at the top until they’re 40 years old, and based on taking one or two fights a year, a five-fight deal might take three years to complete, Ngannou’s next contract could be the last big one of his career.

It’s important, therefore, for him to make the right decision with it. That probably means taking the least risk possible.

Jumping into boxing might give him one huge payday, but it’s likely that his reputation would be damaged afterwards, while moving to a different MMA promotion could end up pushing him out of the spotlight.

They can control everything, but don't let them control your mind. #Road2Recovery 👉🏿 youtu.be/9ajnK8x8DO4 https://t.co/0PxpuzQBKs

With that considered, surely it’d be better for him to remain with the UFC, particularly if he could negotiate a deal that wouldn’t see him lose too much money if he were to lose the heavyweight title.

The promotion is the only place that could guarantee him the spotlight. Given his growing star power, it’s unlikely they’d let him go before the end of his contract. Put simply, sticking rather than twisting is his safest option.


#2. Francis Ngannou may not be able to make much more money with another MMA promotion

The biggest payday for Francis Ngannou may still be in the UFC
The biggest payday for Francis Ngannou may still be in the UFC

While rival MMA promotions like Bellator and the PFL are often reputed to pay as much money, if not more, to certain fighters as the UFC does, when it comes to the very top athletes in the sport, that’s not usually the case.

Due to the fact that the UFC’s champions are usually given a cut of the revenue brought in by the promotion’s pay-per-views, it’s possible for a titleholder to earn millions of dollars without necessarily having a high base pay.

‘The Predator’, for instance, reportedly earned a $600,000 base pay for his win over Ciryl Gane earlier this year, but it’s likely that he may have claimed much more when his cut of the pay-per-view revenue was considered.

UFC 270 salaries: Francis Ngannou earns $600,000 purse for win over Ciryl Gane (@shaunalshatti) mmafighting.com/2022/1/23/2289… https://t.co/IZd92dPTjG

Bellator could offer him a similar or larger base pay, but given that their pay-per-views only draw a fraction of the numbers that the UFC’s events draw, it’s likely he’d come away with less money overall.

Ngannou would be able to wear his own sponsors if he moved to a rival promotion, but again, there’s a chance that sponsors would prefer to pay him more if he remained in the UFC due to the exposure that being involved with a UFC champion could bring.

Other fighters – names such as Benson Henderson and Rory MacDonald – ended up leaving the UFC for what they felt might be a better deal, only to find that wasn’t exactly the case. Therefore, Ngannou might be better off by hedging his bets and staying where he is.


#1. All of Francis Ngannou’s best potential opponents remain in the UFC

All of the world's other great heavyweights - including Ciryl Gane - are with the UFC
All of the world's other great heavyweights - including Ciryl Gane - are with the UFC

Probably the biggest reason for Francis Ngannou to remain with the UFC is the fact that there are simply no viable opponents for him outside the promotion.

It’s arguable that Ngannou’s current situation is similar to the one Randy Couture found himself in when he attempted to force his way out of the UFC in 2007. However, in that instance, ‘The Natural’ had plenty of fights outside the UFC waiting for him.

Not only was there a big-money fight with Fedor Emelianenko, but other top heavyweights like Josh Barnett, Alistair Overeem and Sergei Kharitonov were also competing away from the octagon at the time.

Who might lie in wait for Ngannou if he were to leave for a rival promotion? Essentially, there’s nobody.

Bellator’s current heavyweight champion is Ryan Bader, who left the UFC after suffering some bad losses at 205lbs. Nobody would want to see Ngannou face Fedor, who probably shouldn’t be fighting any more at this point. PFL’s heavyweight division, meanwhile, is largely a wasteland.

In the UFC, on the other hand, Ngannou has fought most of the top heavyweights, but there are plenty of other great fights for him. A clash with Jon Jones is obviously the biggest potential bout, but fights with the likes of Sergei Pavlovich, Tom Aspinall and Tai Tuivasa could also be fun.

Francis Ngannou and Jon Jones fighting for the heavyweight title is still on @arielhelwani’s wish list 📝 https://t.co/xKf5dJYvpe

Essentially, if ‘The Predator’ wants to remain recognized as the world’s top heavyweight, he needs to stay where the best competition is – and that’s the UFC.

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Edited by Harvey Leonard
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