Francis Ngannou: UFC Threatened to Sue Agent Over Alleged Talks with Jake Paul's Team

Doric SamJanuary 25, 2022

Champion Cameroon's Francis Ngannou takes questions in the press room after defeating French Cyril Gane in their UFC 270 championship fight in Anaheim on January 22, 2022. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou's relationship with the promotion is not in a good place.

Ngannou revealed on Monday's episode of The MMA Hour that the UFC threatened to sue his agent, Marquel Martin, over allegedly having talks with Jake Paul's business partner, Nakisa Bidarian, about Ngannou competing in boxing.

"I walked into the room waiting for my manager, my coach," Ngannou said on The MMA Hour (h/t ESPN's Marc Raimondi). "And they were like, 'Wow.' I'm like, 'What's going on?' They told me they just received an email from the UFC saying they're going to sue [Martin] for talking with this guy, Nakisa. Yeah. I'm like, 'Who is Nakisa?'"

Bidarian has ties to the UFC as the promotion's former chief financial officer. He's the co-founder of Most Valuable Promotions alongside Paul. It's also notable that Martin is an agent with Creative Artists Agency (CAA), which is a rival company to Endeavor. Endeavor has a prominent stake in the UFC and a strong relationship with president Dana White.

Ngannou said Martin received the email a few hours before his main event fight at UFC 270 against interim heavyweight champion Ciryl Gane. Ngannou won the fight by unanimous decision to unify the titles.

Ngannou has been embroiled in a contract dispute with the UFC for quite some time now. As Raimondi noted, Saturday's main event was the last fight on Ngannou's UFC contract, but because he won, the "champions clause" kicks in and keeps him under contract for either three more fights or one year. He would've been a free agent had he lost the fight.

Ngannou said his current contract pays him $600,000 per fight, but his dissatisfaction is not solely because of the money. He said on The MMA Hour that he wants the freedom to compete in boxing while he's in the UFC, which is something the promotion has never allowed.

"You can be free and fight for the UFC," Ngannou said. "I just want to be free. We are supposedly independent contractors. [An] independent contractor is technically a free person. That's the reason why they need some adjustments in that contract. That's what I've been fighting for."

After seeing Ngannou's UFC 270 payday on Monday, Paul tweeted his support for fighters earning more money:

Jake Paul @jakepaul

I can’t stress enough how bad this is..<br><br>My next step for helping with this situation will be announced tomorrow. <br><br>PAY FIGHTERS MORE. <a href="https://t.co/36BFiaDK4y">https://t.co/36BFiaDK4y</a>

Then again, Paul didn't seem overly impressed by Ngannou's latest victory:

Jake Paul @jakepaul

Boring fight.

Meanwhile, Ngannou has shown Paul respect for his in-ring performance in recent months. He told TMZ Sports last month that he was "impressed" by Paul defeating Tyron Woodley in their rematch. He also noted people "better take him seriously because he proved it."

Now, alleged communication between the two sides has created an additional rift between the UFC and Ngannou, though it's not clear at this point when Ngannou will be able to fight again.

Ngannou revealed after UFC 270 that he was competing while suffering from a torn right MCL and damaged ACL. He will undergo surgery and is expected to be out for an extended period. He said that while he still hopes to compete again this year, no one from the UFC has approached him or his team regarding a new contract.

"It doesn't look like they want to talk to me anymore," he said.