No one ever said the African power shift in the UFC was going to be smooth.
UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, still only three months shy of acquiring the title after defeating Stipe Miocic was blindsided when the UFC decided to book an interim heavyweight title bout featuring Derrick Lewis vs. Ciryl Gane.
However, Ngannou was never told and thought he was in line for his first title defense in the Fall. The UFC changed course, and now UFC 265 will be on Aug. 7th in Houston.
According to reports, Ngannou’s agent Marquel Martin told ESPN the news came as a “complete shock.”
Ngannou won the heavyweight title in March at UFC 260 when he knocked out Stipe Miocic. The UFC wanted to book a fight between him and Lewis in June and then tried again for August, but apparently, Ngannou wasn’t ready in time.
Ngannou went home to Cameroon in May and to Dubai before returning to the United States earlier this month.
To make an interim title so soon, if you look at the history of this division, it comes as a surprise,” Martin said via ESPN.
“Francis is just now returning to the states to begin training, and he just won the title three months ago. We’re unsure of the reasoning behind this, but we hope to get clarity soon and figure out something with the UFC soon. At the end of the day, they’re in control of these decisions.
“Francis is just now returning to the States to begin training, and he just won the title three months ago. We’re unsure of what the reasoning is behind this, but we hope to get clarity soon and figure out something with the UFC soon. At the end of the day, they’re in control of these decisions.”
Ngannou also quipped on social media Monday:
“I remember my interim title fight against Jairzinho … oh wait.”
Last year, Ngannou wanted the UFC to make an interim title fight in May 2020 between him and Jairzinho Rozenstruik, as Miocic held up the division because of circumstances related to COVID-19.
However, the UFC declined to make it an interim title fight with Ngannou, defeating Jairzinho by knockout then facing Miocic for the title 10 months later.
UFC President Dana White snapped back at Martin’s assessment, claiming the UFC informed Ngannou and his team of the potential for an interim title fight multiple times.
White went even further, referring to Martin and his employer, the Creative Artists Agency, as “incompetent.”
Martin defended himself and explained further that Ngannou was willing to defend his title one month later in September.
“Incompetent management??,” Martin wrote on Instagram. “I think we’ve done a damn good job. I think you REALLY don’t like the fact that Francis is being represented by not only me but an entire agency … one of which you can’t control.”
Marquel Martin is Black and part of a growing power shift in mixed martial arts. The UFC notoriously has not successfully market to Black audiences, although they currently have three African-born champions.