Despite leaving the UFC and forfeiting his world title, YouTuber-turned-boxer Jake Paul insists Francis Ngannou is still MMA’s undisputed heavyweight champion.
In a rematch in 2021, the hard-hitting heavyweight defeated legendary champion Stipe Miocic for the title before defending it against top contender Ciryl Gane last January. But, after a long battle with injury, which coincided with the expiration of his contract, he chose to test free agency, costing him the belt he never lost in the ring.
Despite not holding the UFC title, Paul believes Ngannou will remain the greatest heavyweight in the world to MMA fans until he is defeated. While the champion considers other promotions’ offers, legendary former light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones will challenge Gane for the vacant title in March.
“Francis Ngannou is the baddest man on the planet, and he chose to be a free agent,” Paul wrote in a tweet yesterday. “He is the MMA heavyweight champion and will remain so until he is defeated. This does not sit well with them. But that is reality, and they must deal with it. They have to deal with it every day.”
Despite being the heavyweight champion and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, Ngannou’s UFC contract paid him scandalously little. He received a guaranteed purse of $600,000, or roughly 50 times less than his boxing counterpart Tyson Fury, for his last defence against Gane, and was dissatisfied with negotiations for a new contract.
Dana White, his former promoter, has already stated that Ngannou has decided to test free agency in order to take “fewer risks” and face fewer opponents for more money.
“We offered Francis a deal that would’ve made him the highest paid heavyweight in the history of the company, more than Brock Lesnar, more than everyone,” White said on Saturday night in an update on Ngannou’s UFC future.
“He is free to go wherever he wants and do whatever he wants. I believe Francis is in a position right now where he does not want to take a risk. He believes he can fight fewer opponents and earn more money. The guy weighs more than 300 pounds, just had knee surgery, and hasn’t been to a real training camp. That, I believe, has a lot to do with it.”
For years, Ngannou had publicly called for a fight with Jones, and he entered his fight with Gane last January as the underdog. He later revealed that he had suffered a serious knee injury prior to the fight with Gane, his former training partner, and was competing injured despite not having a UFC contract to fall back on if he was injured.