Heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou is in a “stand-off” with the UFC over a new contract despite being less than a month away from his first title defence, says his manager.
Ngannou’s fight against interim champion Ciryl Gane on 22 January is the last on his current deal.
Manager Marquel Martin told Sirius XM: “I haven’t heard back from the UFC since, I want to say, June.”
Ngannou is one of the UFC’s most exciting fighters with a ferocious knockout punch, but his relationship with the UFC top brass appears to have soured in the last year.
“UFC is the best MMA promoter in the game, in the business,” Martin said.
“They’ve made it pretty clear where they’re at. I hate to say this, but it feels like a stand-off.
“But it’s really not. We would love to be with the UFC, we would love to do business with the UFC, but they’ve chosen to go about the way that they’ve gone, and the way that we don’t feel is right.”
Why is there a stand-off?
Ngannou, who claimed the heavyweight belt in March by knocking out Stipe Miocic, will defend his title for the first time against fellow Frenchman and former gym team-mate Gane at UFC 270 in California.
The 35-year-old would become a free agent if he loses to Gane but, according to UFC president Dana White, a “champion clause” in his current deal would automatically extend his contract should he retain his belt.
White has hinted the stand-off is because of financial demands, but Ngannou and his team have denied money is the main issue.
“I did not sign a new deal. First of all, there is a champ clause and they’ve been trying to apply pressure with those extensions,” Ngannou told MMA Fighting.
“But I do not sign a new deal, that’s basically the issue. That’s what is causing all this issue. I don’t want to sign a new deal on certain terms, what doesn’t work for me.
“I don’t feel protected in those terms. In the past two years, I fought twice, and I had to borrow money to live. Nobody cares about that I have no guarantee in that deal and I have no protection.
“So based on that experience, I want get something better terms on my contract and obviously pay what I deserve.”
Do the UFC want to re-sign Ngannou?
White has said the UFC will not give in to Ngannou’s demands and suggested he would be prepared for him to walk away.
Martin says the UFC’s decision to organise an interim heavyweight title fight between Gane and Derrick Lewis in August rather than wait for Ngannou to return in September was another attempt to put pressure on Ngannou to agree a new deal.
“Francis and I bumped into each other the other night at dinner and we had a good talk,” White said on Teddy Atlas’ podcast ‘The Fight’.
“If you don’t want be here, if this is not where you want be, well that’s not fun for you and it’s definitely not fun for me either. These are all grown men and women.
“Everybody has to make their own decisions in life and go down their own paths, but I think that Francis and I had a good conversation.”