Francis Ngannou reveals he was $200K in debt to Kamaru Usman before final UFC fight

Francis Ngannou bet on himself in a bigger way than people realized.

In 2021, Ngannou was the newly-crowned UFC heavyweight champion and had only one fight left on his contract with the promotion. In similar situations, the UFC has typically re-signed champions before they fight out their contracts, but Ngannou didn’t want that. Instead, “The Predator” took a gamble on himself, turning down an extension offer and fighting out his contract so he could enter free agency. At the time, fans knew Ngannou was taking a risk, but only now is it apparent just how big that risk was.

“You were talking earlier about the contract that I turned down,” Ngannou said to Kamaru Usman and Henry Cejudo on their show Pound 4 Pound. “You knew a lot about the stuff that I turned down from the UFC negotiation with my last fight in the UFC. I took $600,000 for my last fight in the UFC as opposed to $5 million that they were offering for the same fight. And I was broke. At the time I owed Usman $200,000. I was broke. It’s true!”

The gamble ultimately paid off for Ngannou. After beating Ciryl Gane in his final UFC bout, Ngannou then turned down another offer from the UFC which would have paid him “around” $8 million for a Jon Jones fight. Instead, he entered free agency, where he signed a lucrative partnership deal with PFL which also allowed him to pursue boxing, which then led to a massive fight against Tyson Fury and his upcoming matchup against Anthony Joshua. But even if things hadn’t worked out as well as they have for Ngannou, he says he would still have made the same choices.

“What happened is I had something, I had a goal, I had my own way,” Ngannou explained. “I wanted something and it couldn’t be delivered. I couldn’t sell out what I wanted just because of more money. Obviously I needed that money. Obviously I never had that amount of money.

“I wasn’t loyal to the dream, I was loyal to myself. What I make sure I always am is loyal to myself. To what I set, my principles, my goals, everything. I don’t change direction because unpredictable things, because of some things that are attractive. I don’t change my direction and I think that’s what happened.

“Even after that fight, we get to a negotiation, they were pretty much capable to do a lot of concessions, but it wasn’t reaching my expectations, my goal, so we moved. I moved away.”

Ngannou faces Joshua this Friday in a 10-round boxing match in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Though he’s currently fully focused on his boxing pursuits, Ngannou remains partnered with the PFL with the expectation that he will finally fight in the SmartCage in 2025. And while he doesn’t regret any of the choices that have put him in his current position, the former UFC heavyweight champion does admit that for as fun and lucrative boxing is, he still misses his first sport.

“I miss MMA, too, bro!” Ngannou said “I get to the point where now I’m like, I think MMA was very easy. Not that it’s easy, but it’s my comfort zone. I know what I’m doing. It’s my area. I’m in boxing every day, trying to figure out all the new stuff, experiment, all that stuff — it’s hard. The body mechanics, you have to adjust everything, which is stuff you’ve done in MMA. The body knows what you’re doing, even if MMA is more complex, you’ve been doing it. You know when you step in the octagon how to manage that.”