Francis Ngannou likely had a myriad of reasons behind his decision to exit the UFC and test free agency but being scared of tough competition wasn’t among them.
While UFC president Dana White didn’t go as far as using a word like afraid when addressing Ngannou, he did state that in his opinion the defending heavyweight champion was “in a place right now where he doesn’t want to take a lot of risk” while adding that he was in a “good position where he could fight lesser opponents and make more money.”
Considering Ngannou already holds wins over three of the top five heavyweights in the UFC rankings, it seems dubious at best that he would suddenly try to avoid top competition. UFC welterweight Matt Brown scoffs at the idea that Ngannou is trying to avoid anybody but he also understands the narrative White is trying to create with what he’s saying.
“If you think of politicians or Dana [White] speaking, you’re speaking to the lowest common denominator here,” Brown said on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “You’re not speaking to the people that are educated.
“You’re speaking to the casuals. Those are the people you’re pandering to the most when you’re saying stuff like that. A lot of them probably believe it to be honest. They’ll buy into anything because they don’t know the ins and outs of it.”
Brown hopes that knowledgeable fans of the sport will disregard White’s comments regarding Ngannou’s decision to leave the UFC but he also understands a lot of people will probably regurgitate those same talking points whether it’s true or not.
“It’s very similar to how politicians say different things,” Brown explained. “They’re just saying things that the mainstream mass people are going to buy into.
“Those who really know, know Francis isn’t scared of anyone. We’ll have listeners on here that will understand and they’ll listen to us and say they’re right. But there’s millions of other people out there who will buy it.”
In reality, Brown says that offering theories about some fighters avoiding better competition might work but he doesn’t see how anyone could reasonably buy that where Ngannou is involved.
“That narrative worked for other guys for sure, whether it was true or not, we could maybe buy into it a little bit,” Brown said. “With Francis Ngannou it’s like wait a minute. This dude just beat the best heavyweights in the world.
“Did you see what he did to Alistair Overeem? I don’t think he’s scared of anyone. He beat Stipe [Miocic] handily. Come on, man. I don’t think anybody’s buying into that for Francis.”
As far as the impact of Ngannou actually leaving the UFC, Brown argues that it’s probably the biggest loss the promotion has ever suffered.
Ngannou was not only the reigning and defending UFC heavyweight champion but he’s still in the prime of his career, which means he’s got a lot of time left to make a huge impact wherever he fights next.
The UFC has failed to keep champions in previous instances but the last time that happened was all the way back in 2004 when B.J. Penn was stripped of the welterweight title after he left the organization and signed with K-1. Now almost 20 years later, Ngannou becomes just the fourth champion to leave the UFC over a contract dispute.
“I can’t think of a bigger loss,” Brown said. “I think Francis is either in his prime or very close to his prime. He’s the champion. He smashed the top guys in his weight class. I can’t think of anyone [who was a bigger loss].”
There’s no word yet where Ngannou might land, although he’ll undoubtedly have a lot of suitors vying for his attention now that he’s free to work with anybody he chooses.
Brown can’t speak for Ngannou but he knows this move allows him to control his own destiny with hopes that he’ll be able to find even more success outside the UFC.
“He knows in the UFC, this is his only option — he’s got to fight the next toughest guy and that’s how you make money and however much they’re able to pump up the next guy is however much money he can make,” Brown said. “Now at least he has options.
“If he goes out there and does some great things, he can be one of the wealthiest athletes in the world. If he goes out and loses or something, of course, his stock will go down and it won’t be that much. It seems to me that he’s betting on himself here. He thinks he’s going to go do some great things and he wants to have that availability to do that.”