UFC releasing heavyweight champ Francis Ngannou

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou is being released from his contract and his title will be vacated.

UFC president Dana White made the announcement at a press conference on Saturday.

“We offered Ngannou a deal that would make him the highest-paid heavyweight of all time,” White said. “He turned it down. We’re going to release him from his contract. He can go wherever he wants and do whatever he wants.”

Jon Jones will fight Ciryl Gane for the now-vacant heavyweight belt at UFC 285 on March 4 in Las Vegas.

Ngannou, 36, of Cameroon, owns a 17-3-0 record. His last fight came nearly a year ago with a unanimous decision against Gane at UFC 270 on Jan. 22, 2022.

Ngannou injured his knee during a sparring session while preparing for that fight and later underwent surgery.

“We can’t continue to hold up the division to come to an agreement with this guy,” White said. “We did everything we could to make the fight happen and give him the fight. But he’s got it in his head that there’s bigger opportunities outside the UFC with lesser opponents.”

Ngannou became the heavyweight champion with a knockout of Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 on March 27, 2021.

–Field Level Media

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