Dana White Explains Not Putting Title Belt on Francis Ngannou After Win at UFC 270

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 27, 2022

ANAHEIM, CA - JANUARY 22: Francis Ngannou celebrates his victory over Ciryl Gane in their Heavyweight championship fight during UFC 270 on January 22, 2022, at Honda Center in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

UFC President Dana White told ESPN's Laura Sanko on Wednesday that he didn't put the title belt on Francis Ngannou following his victory over Ciryl Gane at UFC 270 because he left immediately after the fight to address something backstage, though he didn't specify what required his attention.

"For anybody that thinks I was showing any kind of disrespect towards Francis—I saw Francis all week, you idiots," he said in the interview. "I shook his hand, I said hi to him. I was out there for the staredowns, the whole thing."

Ngannou told reporters after his win Saturday night that he didn't know why UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard, and not White, put the heavyweight title around his waist.

"I don't know. You have to ask him," he said. "No, I did not have anything to do about that. I think that was their decision. I'm about to ask about that, too."

White also didn't attend Ngannou's press conference after the win, which was news to Ngannou.

"Wow, OK, I didn't know that, too," he said.

Ngannou and the UFC have had their disagreements of late when it's come to agreeing on a new contract for the fighter, leading to speculation that White perhaps didn't put on Ngannou's belt or attend his press conference because of that rift.

Greg Beacham @gregbeacham

Francis Ngannou says he didn’t tell Dana White not to put the belt around his waist after <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UFC270?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UFC270</a>, but: “It’s been a long time I’ve been worrying about my future in the company.” <a href="https://t.co/n93Rjib5W9">pic.twitter.com/n93Rjib5W9</a>

Mitch Gagnon @MitchGagnonUFC

Wonder if <a href="https://twitter.com/danawhite?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@danawhite</a> is going to address the disgusting childish tantrum he did by leaving the Honda centre not handing out <a href="https://twitter.com/francis_ngannou?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@francis_ngannou</a> belt and bailing on the press conference !!!!!

"I wish [White] would’ve taken the high road and just went in and done it, and just been a part of that," Ngannou's coach Eric Nicksick said on The MMA Hour this week. "Because the last couple weeks, I felt like Dana and Francis had been mending things. I felt like those two had been trying to become better and heal that relationship. So for him to not be there—again, I don't know his reasons why, I don't know if he got, all of a sudden he had a stomach issue, something—but for him not to be there, I just thought it was kind of a weak move."

Ngannou, 35, has emerged as one of the UFC's brightest stars, with six straight wins. He's now 17-3 in his professional career.

But it's arguable that he's being paid like a champion in one of the biggest sporting promotions in the world. Per the California State Athletic Commission (h/t Morgan Campbell of the New York Times), Ngannou pulled just $600,000 in guaranteed money for fighting Gane.

While Ngannou's contract with the UFC is up, the promotion does have a clause guaranteeing them the next fight for a defending titleholder. Ngannou told reporters after his UFC 270 win that he will become a free agent if he doesn't fight again in 2022, however.

So while White denied that his absence from the ring following Nbannou's big win was about disrespecting the fighter, it's hard to ignore the history between the two men amid the ongoing contract dispute.

And it's hard to completely ignore the possibility of a purposeful snub from White, especially without more clarity on what backstage situation he might have been handling.