In front of the assembled media at UFC Vegas 67, UFC president Dana White announced that the promotion had called it quits with heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou.
During the course of the event, White made the announcement that the “Predator” had declined “a deal that would’ve made him the highest-paid heavyweight in the history of the company—more than (Brock) Lesnar, more than anybody else.”
White provided no further elaboration or explanation after making that comment. Nothing in the way of facts, figures, numbers, clauses, or promises was provided. It was sufficient for folks to merely be aware that it was a significant event. Knowing their place, the media reported White’s amazement that Ngannou had the nerve to reject such an offer without inquiring as to the exact sum or pointing out that Lesnar hadn’t fought for the UFC since 2016 or had the UFC title since 2010.
Eric Nicksick’s Clarifications
Eric Nicksick, who is Ngannou’s coach, was not one of the people who failed to notice that White’s remark was lacking in specifics. Nicksick clarified some of White’s vaguer points in an interview with MyMMANews’ John Eric Poli.
Nicksick shared that: “He (Ngannou) was like, man, if I lose this fight, I lose all my protection.“
He further added that: “The number was drastically dropped. Yes, he was gonna get paid great money to fight Jon Jones but the next question was, what happens if you were to lose? Then it’s like he’s back down at the bottom again, you know the number was, I think for him, the number that they gave just didn’t seem fair, it didn’t make any sense. Basically, he was gonna get paid a little bit more than Alistair Overeem was being paid… If you were to lose to Jon Jones you’re dropping pay was quite exponential, so it didn’t make any sense for him.”
UFC Notable Pay Transactions
Overeem received $400,000 for his performance at UFC on ESPN 8, which was his most recent known payout. In the main event, Overeem won the fight with a knockout victory over Walt Harris. After defeating Harris, Overeem went on to compete in two more bouts. In those fights, both of which were main events, he earned a record of 1-1. Both bouts took place in Nevada, which as of July 2020, will no longer report fighter compensation.
Due to the lack of available data (many sports commissions do not publish fighter pay), Nicksick’s claim can only be supported by a small sample of retired champions, but the data that is available lends credence to his claims.
UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley earned a purse of $500,000 for his battle to defend his championship at UFC 253. He was defeated by Kamaru Usman in the competition. In Woodley’s subsequent fight, which was the main event of a non-title bout and took place against Gilbert Burns, he earned $200,000 despite suffering a defeat.
At UFC 155, Junior dos Santos was defeated and his heavyweight belt was taken away. His salary was stated to be $400,000 at that time. Dos Santos was scheduled to face Mark Hunt in his next bout, which was a non-title co-main event bout. “Cigano” came out on top, winning a total of $240,000 for his efforts. Only $120,000 of that was considered “show money,” while the other $120,000 was contingent on him winning the competition. JDS would have been had to report an additional $120,000 in earnings had he been victorious in that fight.
When Luke Rockhold was defeated by Michael Bisping for the UFC middleweight title at UFC 199, he was awarded a cash prize of $250,000. The next stated compensation for Rockhold didn’t arrive until after he suffered a defeat at the hands of Jan Blachowicz at UFC 239. Between his bouts against Bisping and Blachowicz, he had a record of 1-1 and had made a reported $200,000 at UFC 239.
The most recent and relevant incident that could be uncovered took place at UFC 201, when Robbie Lawler was defeated and his welterweight belt was taken away. After defeating Tyron Woodley, ‘Ruthless’ was awarded a purse worth $500,000 for his performance. In his subsequent fight, which was not for a title and was not the main event, Lawler defeated Donald Cerrone and walked away with a total of $300,000 ($200,000 in win money and $100,000 in show money).
The Bottom Line
Therefore, it’s safe to assume that Ngannou was less impressed by White’s claim that he would have been “the highest-paid heavyweight in the history of the company” than White made it sound. Especially considering the fact that the heavyweight title has a history of being the most challenging belt to defend in the promotion’s entire existence.
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