Francis Ngannou has reportedly become a free agent. Ngannou is in the middle of a contract negotiation for his anticipated comeback to the Octagon at UFC 285.
Ngannou last competed inside the Octagon at UFC 270, which was held about a year ago. After defeating Ciryl Gane by unanimous decision, Ngannou said he will need time off to undergo and recuperate from knee surgery.
Many believed that the break would allow the promotion time to talk to its heavyweight champion about a new contract. Sadly, it seems that nothing has been accomplished despite some optimistic remarks from Dana White.
Ariel Helwani addressed a notion that Ngannou would be defecting to the PFL after his mother was seen sporting a shirt with the logo of the competing organization.
Helwani made his assumption in response to fan queries on a recent broadcast of The MMA Hour. Helwani also said that there is no contract in place for Ngannou’s much-anticipated 2023 comeback.
“Francis as of right this moment isn’t going to the PFL. I don’t know why his mother was wearing a shirt with the PFL logo on it. The story is still evolving. I still believe at the end of the day he goes back to the UFC in large part because he’s not represented by CAA (Creative Artists Agency).”
“That was a big stumbling block. CAA, Endeavor, they’re not the best of friends, but as of right this moment, there’s no deal in place for him to re-sign. There’s no deal in place for him to fight on March 4 and that’s going to be the real interesting one.”
“It’s January 11. Who’s fighting on March 4? I’ve told you they wanted Jon Jones vs. Francis. Here’s the really interesting thing: If Jon Jones is truly ready to fight on March 4, you gotta get him a fight on March 4. The ideal scenario would be Francis, but we were also told he was truly ready to fight on December 10. You can’t delay.”
“There’s only going to be so many Jon Jones fights left and so if Francis Ngannou is not ready to return… And there’s a possibility he’s just not ready to return. That would be a year or so since the knee injury. It’s not a crazy thought that he won’t be ready.”
Helwani wishes to see the UFC move forward to find Jon Jones another challenger if Francis Ngannou is not ready to fight.
“If Jon Jones is already to return and Francis isn’t, you have to go to the next guy and I imagine the next guy would be Stipe (Miocic). And if for whatever reason Stipe can’t fight, you gotta go to the next guy and I imagine the next guy Ciryl Gane. And if Ciryl Gane’s not ready, you gotta go to the next guy and I would imagine that’s Curtis Blaydes. You gotta get Jon Jones a fight because you don’t know when he’ll be available again.”
Nearly three years have passed since Jon Jones last competed in the Octagon. Booking Jones against the best opponent for his earliest comeback in 2023 would be in the promotion’s best interest.