Francis Ngannou will never compete in the UFC again.
That’s according to Dana White, who emphatically stated that after contract negotiations failed to bring back Ngannou on a new deal, and the UFC isn’t interested in future talks to see his return. When the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement, Ngannou relinquished the UFC heavyweight title and now remains a free agent with the ability to sign with any other promotion in the world.
“We negotiated with him for years,” White responded when asked if the UFC would ever try to re-sign Ngannou. “It’s over. That’s over. He’ll never be in the UFC again.”
While he didn’t address the comments directly, Ngannou didn’t seem all that bothered based on his post on social media following White’s interview after the UFC 285 weigh-ins.
With Ngannou gone, the UFC quickly moved forward to book a new heavyweight title fight as Ciryl Gane will now take on Jon Jones on Saturday with the vacant belt on the line.
Gane will get his second opportunity at becoming champion after previously claiming an interim title but then losing to Ngannou by unanimous decision at UFC 270. Since that loss, Gane bounced back with a knockout win over Tai Tuivasa to put him in position to challenge Jones, who will be making his heavyweight debut at UFC 285.
White says Gane was the natural choice for the opportunity once Ngannou opted to test free agency.
“When Francis didn’t take the fight with Jon, Ciryl’s the No. 1 guy in the world,” White said. “That fight was razor thin between those two so Jon is coming in and fighting the absolute best heavyweight.
“When you think about Francis, Francis was the underdog in the fight against Jon and Ciryl started out as the favorite. This fight is big for Jon Jones and Ciryl. If Ciryl can beat Jon Jones, it’s a big deal.”
Despite White’s claims, Ngannou actually opened as a favorite over Jones at most notable sportsbooks when odds were offered for the potential matchup. In fact at BetOnline.ag, Ngannou was a heavy favorite at -220 over Jones as the underdog at +180.
As for the fight against Gane on Saturday, Jones opened as a slight underdog at DraftKings but otherwise he was favored by most other sportsbooks. With just hours remaining until UFC 285 takes place, Jones is a solid favorite across the board.
Regardless, Jones and Gane will battle for the vacant title with Ngannou obviously no longer an option to fight either one of them.
Add to that, the winner of the UFC 285 main event will already have a challenger awaiting them after White confirmed that former heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic will face either Jones or Gane next.
“He’s absolutely the next one,” White said. “Whoever wins on Saturday night will face Stipe next.”