Stipe Miocic respects the point Francis Ngannou was trying to prove with his years-long battle with the UFC. He just isn’t surprised things played out the way they did.
“I get it,” Miocic said recently on The MMA Hour. “I mean, it’s going to be a long time before any of that happens — [Ngannou was] trying to move [the sport] in the right direction, which is great, but it’s going to be a long time before any of that happens.”
Ngannou finally parted ways with the UFC in January following a lengthy contractual standoff, becoming the first UFC champion to depart the promotion midway through a title reign in more than a decade. “The Predator” told MMA Fighting that he sought several concessions outside of the usual framework for a UFC contract, including health insurance for all UFC fighters, the right to seek his own in-cage sponsorships, and an advocate to represent UFC athletes in the company’s board meetings. He said UFC officials balked at his requests and focused solely on luring him back with more money, which didn’t work.
It was a bittersweet turn of events for Miocic. The former two-time heavyweight champion has dealt with his own roller-coaster relationship with the UFC behind-the-scenes over the years, so he’s more intimately familiar than most with the frustrations Ngannou felt. That’s why he doesn’t fault Ngannou for making the choice he did. He simply wishes the two would’ve had a chance to settle their rivalry with a trilogy bout before Ngannou left.
“I would’ve loved to have fought Francis again, but it’s not going to happen,” Miocic said.
“Listen, it’s his decision. I wish he would’ve stayed because I wanted another crack at him. Unfortunately it didn’t turn out that way, but listen, he’s doing what’s best for him and his family. He thinks it’s the right way to go, and it’s his decision. I wish him nothing but the best and I hope it works out.”
Miocic, 40, said a rubber match with Ngannou is the fight he wanted most with the time he has left in his career. Their series is currently tied at one win apiece, with Miocic winning their first meeting in 2018 via unanimous decision, and Ngannou winning the rematch with a brutal second-round knockout in 2021. With Ngannou out of the picture, Miocic is now hoping to fight the winner of UFC 285’s main event — Ciryl Gane vs. Jon Jones — for the heavyweight belt, but he admitted that even an opportunity against an all-time great like Jones pales in comparison how he would’ve felt about getting a third crack at Ngannou.
That being said, he’s more than willing to consider the Gane vs. Jones winner to be the rightful new heir to the UFC’s heavyweight throne.
“[Ngannou] is gone,” Miocic said. “So whoever has that belt is the champ.”
As for Ngannou’s next step, “The Predator” hasn’t wavered in his desire to box now that he’s finally a free agent. Heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury recently upped the ante, calling for a blockbuster match with Ngannou that would take place in a cage with four-ounce gloves and boxing rules. Fury suggested Mike Tyson as the referee.
Whether a mega-event like that actually comes to fruition is still up in the air, but Miocic is no stranger to the sweet science himself — Miocic is a former Cleveland Golden Gloves boxing champion. So if he and Ngannou ever somehow get a chance to complete their rubber match in a boxing ring rather than an MMA cage, Miocic is all for it.
“That’d be fantastic [to box Ngannou],” Miocic said. “Hell yeah, I love boxing.”