UFC President Dana White announced on Saturday that the promotion has released heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou after the two sides could not reach a contract agreement.
Ariel Helwani @arielhelwani
Francis Ngannou is officially clear to sign a deal with someone else. White says they are going to wave any right to match and let him go elsewhere. He is no longer the UFC heavyweight champion. White says they offered him a deal that would have made him the highest paid HW ever.
In addition, Jon "Bones" Jones will now make his heavyweight debut on March 4 in Las Vegas for the vacant UFC heavyweight title against Ciryl Gane. White also announced that Jones has signed an eight-fight deal with UFC.
White had more comments on Ngannou, including thoughts on negotiations regarding the heavyweight fight that never happened between the now ex-champ and Jones.
Ngannou is still working his way back to the Octagon after suffering a torn ACL and MCL before his UFC 270 win against Gane in January 2022. However, there was public hope earlier this week that a fight between him and Jones could still go down in March.
Eric Nicksick, Ngannou's head coach, ballparked the probability of a Jones-Ngannou fight happening then.
"I think it's 50-50, to be honest with you, when you're talking business and timeline," Nicksick told Mike Heck of MMA Fighting.
"I'm confident from what I saw from Francis a couple of weeks ago that if we had to be ready for March, I think we can get him ready, but I think it is cutting it a little bit short because he had to go back home and renew his visa."
A Jones-Ngannou fight won't be happening now, but numerous MMA analysts sided with Ngannou upon his departure.
Trent Reinsmith @TrentReinsmith
Highest paid HW doesn't equal highest paid fighter and we know the highest paid UFC fighter was also underpaid vs. what he made for the UFC...<br><br>It's prize fighting and the prize is money, not being taken advantage of by the UFC. Good for Ngannou. <a href="https://t.co/XH7gvaPSzc">https://t.co/XH7gvaPSzc</a>
The 36-year-old Ngannou is 17-3 (12-2 UFC) in his professional career, with 12 knockouts and four submissions. He's won six straight fights, including a second-round KO over Stipe Miocic, which earned him the heavyweight belt at UFC 260 in March 2021. Ngannou won by unanimous decision over Gane in Jan. 2022 at UFC 270.