Richard Schaefer disagrees with Francis Ngannou’s decision to leave the UFC.
Over the weekend, UFC President Dana White revealed that the promotion could not come to terms with heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou and would cut ties with “The Predator.” Instead, former lightweight champion Jon Jones will now fight former interim champion Cyril Gane at UFC 285 for the vacant heavyweight belt. As Jones’ current career advisor, Schaefer, a longtime boxing promoter and former CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, spoke. about the latest turn of events, suggesting that Ngannou made a mistake by not re-signing his contract with the UFC.
“I think he’s a great athlete, and I think he’s got some big fights coming up, and I personally think, just my feeling, that he made a mistake by not working out his deal with the UFC.” Schaefer told Ariel Helwani. MMA time:. “But it’s his decision. That’s what he does and the world goes on and the UFC goes on. There will be other big fights and there are other heavyweights lined up to fight the winner of this fight to fight John after he beats Cyril. So we’re going to move forward and continue to fight the best against the best, with the best that’s out there.”
While Ngannou’s departure from the UFC was sudden, it’s not entirely unexpected. The heavyweight champion was candid about his many issues with the promotion, including pay, supervision and lack of respect from the company. One of Ngannou’s main challenges when it came to re-signing with the UFC was the option of continuing to fight superfights in boxing, especially with heavyweight champion Tyson Fury. Whether it was this point that ultimately caused Ngannou to turn down lucrative UFC offers remains to be seen, but Schaefer certainly hopes it wasn’t the blocker.
“He may have been a big star in the UFC, but did he really outgrow the UFC?” The boss said: “I do not know: I don’t know enough. I think he’s a great athlete, I think he’s also very charismatic, I’m a fan of his, so I wish him all the best. I just hope he doesn’t go boxing but finds the big fights he’s looking for…
“I wish fight fans, sports fans would finally understand, if you have an MMA athlete go and fight a boxer against a boxer in the ring, the boxer is going to win,” Schaeffer continued, explaining his disdain for the boxing move. “There’s just no question about it. And if you have a boxer, go and compete in the octagon, the MMA guy, under the MMA rules, the MMA guys are going to win. It’s two different sports and I don’t see any way, shape or form that Francis Ngano can go and beat Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury or Oleksandr Usyk…
“So if that’s the case, why do I need to see it? Why should I pay $80 or $100 to see a fight when I know who’s going to win? I don’t care about that.”
What’s next for Ngannou is uncertain, but what he leaves behind is one of the biggest superfights in MMA history. For more than two years, Ngannou and Jones have floated a possible matchup, with Ngannou opting to re-sign with the UFC in what is widely believed to be the next fight for both men. Instead, Ngannou-Jones now joins the list of the most wanted fights that never happened. But while fans can mourn what was lost, Schaefer says he and Jones are firmly focused on what’s to come.
“I don’t think there’s any disappointment,” Schaefer said. “You kind of move on and it is what it is. Never say never. Who knows what the future holds? [Jon] focused on this struggle. It’s a big fight. I believe these are two of the best heavyweights fighting each other and it’s a massive fight, so that’s what the focus is on. You can’t go and cry about what could have been or anything like that.
“For whatever reason, Francis decided to step aside. I respect that and wish him all the best. And who knows if that fight will happen down the road. Personally I think Cyril with his skills and youth etc is a bigger fight. It’s a bigger fight that would be Francis. Certainly more of a challenge and I think it just shows how determined Jon Jones is to become the heavyweight champion. It never happened to him. “Oh, I’m not going to fight this guy or I’m not going to fight that guy.” For him it was: “I don’t really care. I want to fight for the world heavyweight title. Just bring whoever it is.” That is why he is the OTHER. That’s what GOATS do.”
UFC 285 takes place on March 4 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.