Francis Ngannou‘s pay issues with the UFC are well publicised.
The UFC heavyweight champion beat Ciryl Gane on Saturday but said he would not fight anymore on his current deal after a long-running dispute.
“No [I won’t fight again on this deal],” Ngannou said, speaking to ESPN.
“I will not fight for $500,000 [or] $600,000 anymore. It’s over. I took this fight for personal reasons because I want to make sure that regardless of [whether] it’s fair, I can make my case that I have completed the fights.”
His relationship with the UFC has deteriorated so severely that president Dana White refused to strap the belt around him. White also did not attend his usual post-fight press conference.
However, Ngannou’s unhappiness is not just about pay. Speaking on The MMA Hour, the heavyweight champ said he wanted “freedom”.
He stated: “I just want to be free. We are supposedly independent contractors, technically we are free.”
Ngannou’s pay fight has received support from the likes of former UFC fighter Tito Ortiz and YouTuber-turned-boxer Jake Paul.
Now a fighter from the UFC’s biggest rival has leapt to Ngannou’s defence.
Francis Ngannou’s pay is less than the lowest-paid player in the NFL
Despite being one of the UFC’s biggest stars, Ngannou’s pay was less than the lowest-paid NFL player.
This was highlighted by American wrestler Pat Downey, who called on the UFC to up pay for Ngannou.
Downey, who signed up to the UFC’s rival organisation Bellator earlier this month, asked White alongside Jake Paul and Jon Jones if they thought Ngannou was “worth more than a backup kicker.”
According to MMA journalist Shaheen Al-Shatti, the Cameroonian-French fighter took home $600,000 for his title defence against Ciryl Gane on Saturday.
This means Ngannou earned $60,000 less than the minimum salary of a player in the NFL, which according to the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement is $660,000 a season.
While that pay is stretched out over a whole season, it shows the stark difference between the two sports.
Despite being one of the UFC’s biggest stars, Ngannou’s pay is substantially less than the NFL’s top earner, Patrick Mahomes, who takes home $45 million a season.
White has remained stubborn in his defence of fighter pay, but the topic is threatening to tarnish the UFC’s reputation, especially if the sport’s biggest stars are refusing to fight as a result.
Pat Downey is the controversial new arrival to Bellator
29-year-old Downey has yet to fight for Bellator, having spent his career so far in wrestling.
He has a controversial past, most notably when it comes to his opinion on female fighters.
Downey tweeted last year that “in general, the average fan ain’t paying for women’s wrestling #SorryNotSorry #FeelingsLieNumbersDont.”
After a backlash, he tweeted in the evening to apologise for his comments before performing a U-turn the next day and saying, “I’d like to take this time to apologise to absolutely f**king nobody #iSaidwatiSaid.”
He also got involved in a Twitter spat with former UFC champion Daniel Cormier who called Downey a “nobody” and “useless.”