Former coach Fernand Lopez reacts to Francis Ngannou leaving UFC as champion


Don’t count Fernand Lopez among those surprised by how Francis Ngannou’s UFC run ended.

Lopez is the founder of France’s MMA Factory and the head coach who first discovered Ngannou and shepherded his initial rise to the UFC. Lopez and Ngannou parted ways after Ngannou lost the title to Stipe miocic in 2018,. However, Lopez still sees the mind of Ngannou and was not surprised by Ngannou walking away from the UFC title.

“No. I’m no.” Lopez stated Wednesday at The MMA Hour . “I’m not, I’m not.”

Ngannou is the UFC’s first active fighter to leave the sport of fighting while still wearing a belt from B.J. Penn in 2004. His decision was the culmination of a year-long standoff that went public following Ngannou’s title defense over Ciryl Gane at UFC 270.

At the time Ngannou stated that he wanted to be free from UFC’s “one-sided contract” and that he didn’t feel valued by the organization. Once his deal expired in late 2022, Ngannou left for free agency after UFC officials balked at his request for contractual concessions such as health insurance for all fighters, the right to seek his own in-cage sponsorships, and an advocate to represent UFC athletes in the company’s board meetings.

Ngannou has pursued a blockbuster boxing match against world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury for the past several years. Since Ngannou’s UFC exit, the two have publicly flirted with one another even more frequently regarding the matchup, with Fury recently calling for the marquee showdown to be a four-ounce glove boxing match “for big boy money” contested in a cage with Mike Tyson as the special guest referee.

In the interim, UFC’s heavyweight division is moving on.

Lopez’s student Gane is set to face former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones at UFC 285 for the vacant heavyweight title. Lopez believes that as long as Ngannou accepts his decision, everything will be fine for the heavyweight story.

” The most important thing to remember is that happiness is the best medicine. Lopez stated that this is what Lopez meant. If [Ngannou] can find his happiness, that is great. If the UFC are happy to release him and if he’s happy, then it’s good.”