UFC president Dana White broke tradition by not wrapping the heavyweight belt around the waist of Francis Ngannou, before refusing to turn up for the post-fight press conference.
Sunday 23 January 2022 15:08, UK
Francis Ngannou admitted he does not "feel like a free man" as he cast further doubt over his UFC future on the back of defeating Ciryl Gane to retain his heavyweight crown on Saturday night.
The 35-year-old was referring to ongoing grievances with UFC and the organisation's president Dana White over his contract, which had been due to expire following his meeting with Gane but could now reportedly include another fight on the basis of a championship bout clause
White did not wrap the heavyweight belt around Ngannou's waist post-fight, as is tradition, before failing to attend the press conference.
Ngannou has often expressed his childhood dream of being a boxer and recently outlined his desire to have a deal that offers him the chance to pursue opportunities in the ring, with two-time world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury having been touted as a potential opponent in a mixed rules cross-over clash.
"It's not simply money, obviously, money is a part of it, but it's also the terms of the contract that I don't agree with," Ngannou told reporters when asked about his contract. "I don't feel like it's fair. I don't feel like I'm a free man. I don't feel like I've been treated good.
"It's unfortunate that I have to be in this position, that I have to say that. I feel like everyone should have the right to claim for what's best for them.
"At the end of the day, we put a lot of work for this job and we take a lot on our body to make it happen, so we can have a fair and square deal."
Ngannou reportedly pocketed $600,000 for defending his title against Gane in his third career pay-per-view headliner at UFC 270, while in contrast Fury is said to have taken home $30m for his trilogy fight against Deontay Wilder.
What's more, Jake Paul and Tyron Woodley supposedly earned a $2m purse after their eight-round bout at the end of last year.
Besides his future, Ngannou was also asked on his decision to go ahead with the fight despite suffering a knee injury during camp.
"If you feel like there's a chance that you can do it, I think you have to do it," he said. "And I believe in myself, I been through a lot of stuff in my life so, I was sure, I mean, that must be a dumb decision but I didn't wanna withdraw from this fight, I was very confident about my skills to win this fight."
Speaking post-fight, Gane underlined his intentions to pursue a rematch against Ngannou, whose next steps remain to be seen.
English heavyweight Tom Aspinall praised Ngannou for airing his concerns over his contract, citing his influence in growing mixed martial arts around the globe.
"I kind of like it to be honest as a fighter," Aspinall told Sky Sports. "It's a dangerous sport, and when you're bringing in the numbers like Francis is bringing in and bringing in the eyes Francis is bringing in from all over the world, especially the continent of Africa, you should be financially rewarded for it.
"And if he isn't happy he should voice his opinion. You've got the right to tell people you aren't happy, in any context of life, not just business or fighting. If he's not happy and feels like he deserves more, I think he has the right to tell people he deserves more.
"I think it would be a big blow (for him to walk away), because he's the man in heavyweight at the moment, it would be a massive statement against the UFC."
Aspinall is scheduled to face former Bellator heavyweight champion Alexander Volkov on March 19 at The O2 Arena having claimed three Performance of the Night bonuses in his four UFC appearances.