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Former UFC title challenger Chael Sonnen has sought to send some hard truths the way of reigning heavyweight king Francis Ngannou.
Throughout 2022, Ngannou has been locked in a contract dispute with the UFC. While his problems with the promotion began with the creation of an interim title just five months after his crowning glory at UFC 260, the story turned to the Cameroonian’s contract expiration last January.
At UFC 270, Ngannou collided with Ciryl Gane in a unification showdown. While a loss would have left ‘The Predator’ out of contract and with a weakened negotiating position, many expected a win and the initiation of the champion clause to favor Ngannou.
It looked like he achieved the latter by outclassing “Bon Gamin” thanks to a solid display of grappling from rounds three through five in the main event of the pay-per-view.
After entering the contest with a damaged ACL and torn MCL, Ngannou was forced to undergo surgery, leaving him on the sidelines ever since. Now, eight months after his win over Gane, the champion doesn’t seem any closer to striking a new deal with the MMA leader.
Throughout the public dispute, it emerged that one of Ngannou’s main demands was the freedom to be able to explore opportunities outside of the Octagon – including a cross-boxing collision with WBC champion Tyson Fury.
But while Ngannou appears to be holding firm with his demands, he was advised by a former UFC star to acknowledge that the writing is already on the wall.
Sonnen: “The evidence is there, the Ngannou test failed”
During a video recently uploaded to his YouTube channelFormer middleweight and light heavyweight title challenger Chael Sonnen rated Ngnnou’s latest update on his ongoing clash with the UFC.
“The American Gangster” noted that Ngannou has been testing a “theory” about his status in the promotion for nearly a year. Citing his age, injury layoff and current perception of the heavyweight division, Sonnen seemed to suggest the ship had sailed for Ngannou’s tough position.
“Francis Ngannou made a statement. Francis said there was no new contract sent out and he was in no rush,” Sonnen said. “Francis has a skill: he’s a very big man, and he can hit people and knock them down. There’s nothing else to put on a resume…He’s (35)…come out of injury in the most coveted division in fighting history, that no one is looking at.
“The organization you’re trying to nudge and pull — hey, sometimes you have to test those things. Sometimes you get a theory and you have to test it. But it was tested for just under a year. The organization is moving forward,” added Sonnen.
Further clarifying his point, Sonnen claimed that it has become clear that neither the UFC nor the fanbase are calling for Ngannou’s return. Given that the promotion may not need or want ‘The Predator’, the former WEC contender called on Ngannou to realize that “business is good” without his presence.
“It’s very difficult to realize that they don’t need me. Fans aren’t taking to the streets with the pitchforks and lanterns that I thought they were going,” Sonnen said. “Business is good without me. The most anticipated return to the sport is a potential future opponent for me, not mine. These things are difficult.
“These things, they weren’t too nice…I’m able to be a bit critical. You might think it doesn’t feel good, finding out you’re not needed and maybe even not wanted,” Sonnen continued. “35 years after an injury, and people aren’t asking for me back…in a division that’s been coveted since the dawn of time…and it’s the one people focus on the least.”
Ultimately, while Sonnen respects Ngannou’s decision to continue on the path he has, the 45-year-old believes enough evidence has been gathered for the Cameroonian to come to a conclusion about his position – and Sonnen don’t think it’s the one Ngannou would have hoped for.
“Francis didn’t miss anything… Francis took a hit. He had a theory and he tested it,” Sonnen said. “Someone is going to have to ask him and explain this to him…Francis now has the evidence he needs.” It’s all around him. The most talked about heavyweight fight right now – and we understand Francis is almost healthy, but we still aren’t talking about it – is Stipe (Miocic) vs. (Jon) Jones.
“We did it publicly… there’s data, there’s a focus group, there’s a jury of your peers, but the decision is made… the reality is there for Francis, the demands, the boxing, Tyson Fury and the outfit with the organization. The proof is there,” Sonnen concluded.
Following his UFC 270 triumph, Ngannou insisted he was ready to do “whatever it takes” to get what he wants. With that in mind, he may be unlikely to easily turn the knob on the same door Sonnen landed on.
Either way, with his recovery from surgery seemingly coming to an end, we’ll probably find out soon enough.
Do you agree with Chael Sonnen’s assessment of Francis Ngannou?