Francis Ngannou takes the high road in fallout with UFC

Former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou can leave with his head held high after he was released from his UFC contract.

UFC overlord Dana White dropped the bomb at the UFC Vegas 67 post-fight press conference on Saturday and gave his supposed prizefighter a few jabs on the way out.

"I think Francis is at a place right now, where he doesn't want to take a risk… he feels like he can fight lesser opponents and make more money," quipped the UFC boss.

At the time, we didn't know what exactly that meant because the man doing the negotiating, Ngannou, was in bed with his phone off, as he alluded to in a spicy interview with fight industry aficionado Ariel Helwani on MMA Fighting on Tuesday.

The Cameroonian native revealed how in the contract negotiations, where he opted to represent himself sans manager, the UFC washed aside his non-monetary demands with the promise of a big payday, reportedly a contract in the region of $8 million.

"I asked for a lot of things, which doesn't mean I was expecting all those things," said the Baddest Man on the planet.

"I was expecting at least one or two of those things. I asked for the right of a sponsorship, which we've been ripped of. We can't have sponsorship. I asked for health insurance... couldn't have it. I asked for a fighter advocate, somebody in the board meeting who will advocate for the fighters. I asked for that. I couldn't have those stuffs that I asked for. I just wanted them to know that there is something that I do want. I also wanted them to think about that, at least in consideration."

Continuing on the sore point of health insurance, Ngannou clarified that he was advocating these points for all fighters.

"Yes, I can pay my health insurance, at this point health insurance for me is not a problem," explained the 36-year-old.

"But, how about those guys that are at the bottom? Make $10k + $10k or, lost the fight, made $10k? They can't really afford that health insurance. And I have been there. So, it's something that I still carry in my heart."

Instead, the UFC kept talking about all the money he would be making, saying it would be more than Brock Lesnar at UFC 200, though it was, of course, completely unverifiable.

"At some time, I feel like I was slapped in the face by money, like, 'Take the money and shut up.' And that couldn't happen," he said.

"It was just a matter of principle, and at that time, I knew this was it."

In terms of the fights on the contract, Ngannou was clear about what he wanted, but he wasn't going to get that, either.

"I asked for three fights, no extension," continued the behemoth.

"One was Jon Jones, two was Stipe [Miocic]... hopefully Jon Jones again. Out of that three fights, I hoped two was Jon Jones."

Does this sound like a fighter who is scared, as White would have the press believe after breaking the news? Given the chance to set the narrative, White even went on to say Ngannou was "well over 300 pounds" and had a dodgy knee, both "facts" which Ngannou refuted outright.

This is the same Dana White who boasted Ngannou "hits like a Kia Sorento" when it suited him.

But for a man who shoveled sand for $1 dollar a day, survived multiple attempts at scaling border fences and crossing the Mediterranean on a makeshift boat before sleeping on the streets in Paris, words don't cut deep.

As such, Ngannou took the high road, even going as far as to say that he doesn't take it personally and he hasn't shut the door on the UFC permanently. But if he did return, it would be on his terms.

Perhaps the most heartfelt of Ngannou's demands was hidden amongst all the recounting of the mudslinging…

"I think I just need some respect, more respect at least," he said quietly.

"It's very important. I need some freedom. I need to feel like a man, own my freedom, control my destiny. I don't want anybody to decide for me. I think I'm man enough to decide for my own, and so far, I haven't been doing a bad job at all."

And therein lies the crux of why negotiations stalled and the UFC let one of their biggest draws walk out the front door with his head held high, heart at peace and the world at his feet.

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