UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou said he will not fight beyond his upcoming title defense against Ciryl Gane at UFC 270 on Jan. 22 until he gets a new deal with UFC.
"I will not fight for $500,000 [or] $600,000 anymore. It's over," Ngannou said, per ESPN's Brett Okamoto. "I took this fight for personal reasons, because I want to make sure that regardless of [whether] it's fair, I can make my case that I have completed the fights."
The next bout will the last of his eight-fight deal initially signed in 2017, although there is a champion's clause in his contract, according to Okamoto. If he retains the belt, he will remain under contract with UFC for three more fights or one year.
Ngannou, however, said he is willing to hold out if necessary.
The 35-year-old won the heavyweight belt for the first time in March with a knockout win over Stipe Miocic. It was his fifth knockout victory in a row as he climbed the rankings, and he is now considered the No. 4 pound-for-pound fighter in UFC.
It would be a significant loss for UFC if he leaves for another organization, but president Dana White seemed unconcerned.
"You don't always come to terms with people," White told ESPN last month. "Listen, if you want to be with us, we'd love to have you. If you don't want to be with us, no problem. All good."
Ngannou's manager, Marquel Martin, indicated it is up to UFC to complete a deal.
"We've tried to get a deal done with the UFC, but we haven't seen eye to eye," Martin said. "At the end of the day, it's Dana's decision, it's the UFC's decision—whether they want to come back to the table and have a conversation."
There could be a difficult legal battle if Ngannou wins his bout against Gane and remains the champion.
There would certainly be interest in other mixed martial arts organizations if Ngannou becomes a free agent, but he could also turn to the boxing ring.
Boxing heavyweight champion Tyson Fury tweeted about a potential matchup with the UFC star:
TYSON FURY @Tyson_Fury
Who would like to see me fight this beast boxing rules <a href="https://twitter.com/ufc?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ufc</a> gloves?<a href="https://twitter.com/danawhite?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@danawhite</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/francis_ngannou?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@francis_ngannou</a> <a href="https://t.co/xONNoT8NzR">pic.twitter.com/xONNoT8NzR</a>
This matchup would be heavily anticipated but could come down to Ngannou's contract status with UFC.