UFC 270: Francis Ngannou & The Issue Of Fighter Pay

UFC 270: Francis Ngannou & The Issue Of Fighter Pay

By Jack Rainbow

After a triumphant start to 2022, the UFC returns this weekend, with a blockbuster PPV card headlined by a heavyweight title fight of much importance in many ways.

Big-hitting phenom, Francis Ngannou has his first defense, against the 10-0 interim champion Cyril Gane, the challenger is flawless in record and performances so far in the UFC.

This fight is the MMA version of Ali versus Foreman, a more technical, outside fighter in Gane, meets the hardest-hitting heavyweight in UFC history in Ngannou,

It is a phenomenal start to the 2022 PPV calendar and is a match-up that will have the audience gripped from start to finish no matter how long the fight lasts. And make no mistake, that might not be very long.

Gane needs to be perfect throughout the five rounds to avoid Ngannou’s power, and the champion will be asked various questions by the array of weapons the challenger possesses. The storyline is sweetened by the fact that these two trained together, creating a history, and phenomenal storylines for the UFC to use for promotion.

However, somehow, the main conversation going into this fight week is not on the fight, but on an all too familiar issue. Fighter-pay.

Ngannou is set to fight out his UFC contract, and by all means, there is little chance of him signing another. He has cited his pay grade as being integral to this, and Dana White has alluded that the UFC is not willing to meet his demands.

What makes this more controversial, is that this is the first PPV since the price rise. Since signing to ESPN, UFC PPVs have risen from $59.99, to now $74.99 for its primary US audience. The UFC, through its ESPN deal, is in the most lucrative financial state it has been in since its creation, but despite this, there has been no relative increase in fighter pay.

This has come to the forefront of the discourse in the build-up to UFC 270, Ngannou has flirted with boxing on multiple occasions, with the sport having considerably higher pay for their star fighters, but this time it is more serious.  Tyson Fury has even called out Ngannou for a crossover fight, and this is becoming a legitimate possibility.

It is worth mentioning that if Ngannou is victorious, he will have an automatic one-fight extension on his contract, which has led to some cynical detractors questioning if Ngannou will even want to win this fight, especially if he is seeking an exit from the organization, and increased pay.

For the UFC to lose it’s heavyweight champion, and one as popular as Ngannou would be a disaster. For the fight week conversation to be about the less than generous UFC pay grade relative to the companies profits, is disastrous PR before a fight of this magnitude, and has detracted from the brilliant match-up.

The reality for White and the UFC top brass is this issue won’t just go away, especially when considering the company’s ever-increasing profits.

It is no coincidence the consensus pound for pound number one, Kamaru Usman has also expressed a desire to transition to boxing to fight Canelo Alverez. This is not the first, nor will it be the last time a UFC star seeks to leave the company on this issue, and do not be surprised if it pressures the UFC into changing its pay structure for its star attractions. #UFC270 #Ngannou #ufc

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