UFC 271 Confidential – The latest on fighter pay and the future of Francis Ngannou and Amanda Nunes

UFC 271 culminated with Israel Adesanya convincingly defending his middleweight title with a second win over Robert Whittaker. Rising stars Jared Cannonier and Tai Tuivasa also picked up major wins in Houston and are gearing up for major fights and potential title shots later this year.

So far, 2022 has seen two of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the UFC successfully defend their places at the top of their respective divisions. What’s next is less clear for some of the UFC’s other big stars, as the fates of fighters like Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz continue to hang in the balance.

While there are still many unanswered questions after Saturday, fighters, trainers and agents had plenty to say to Houston on several key topics going forward, including what the future holds for the UFC champions. Francis Ngannou and Amanda Nunes, ongoing issues and opportunities with compensation inside and outside the UFC, and how judging in MMA could be improved.


The ongoing drama with fighter compensation in the UFC

Israel Adesanya took to the stage Wednesday for media day and gave an interesting response to the new contract extension he signed earlier in the week with the UFC. After Adesanya explained how “crazy” the deal was and likely made him the No. 2 highest-paid active fighter on the UFC roster, the promotion’s middleweight champion added that he believed the deal would also help his peers.

“With everything going on right now, it will trickle down to the rest of the fighters,” Adesanya said.

How much UFC fighters get paid has been a hot issue for many years. UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, a close friend of Adesanya, has been vocal about his compensation issues and the restrictions of a UFC contract as he considers a potential move to boxing and the windfall financial result.

There’s someone else who’s sparked even more conversation on this topic: Jake Paul.

The YouTube star turned boxer has targeted the UFC, specifically promotion president Dana White, in his rhetoric about how fighters should be treated better. Paul released a UFC music video last month, telling White in the lyrics to “pay your fighters more.” Days earlier, Paul had announced he would invest in UFC parent company Endeavor to try to bring about change from within.

Although there are many doubts about Paul’s sincerity, there has been a lot of buzz in the MMA community about what Paul is saying, the attention he has received and whether it could create real change.

“I think it’s awesome,” a highly regarded MMA trainer told ESPN. “And I didn’t want anything to do with Jake Paul, and I thought it was like a big joke, and I never paid attention to it. But weirdly, he kind of picked up the cause. Funny enough, it’s having a lot of impact. On the contrary, it brings a lot of attention to an issue that perhaps needs a little more attention from its platform.

Will Paul’s rhetoric lead anywhere? Some inside the sport have doubts about it.

“The spotlight he shines on MMA issues is only worth the tweets promoting it,” a prominent manager said. “It won’t change anything. Not even a little.

Last year in boxing, Paul knocked out UFC veteran and multiple MMA champion Ben Askren in April. He went 2-0 against former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, including a one-punch knockout in the rematch. A trainer of several UFC fighters pointed out the contradiction there.

“You’re going to tell yourself you’re looking for the fighters while you’ve been knocking one of the guys out over and over to get paid,” a trainer said. “You capitalize on [Woodley’s] the fall, which is really what it is.”

One thing that could make Paul a real force for change, however, is that he is in no way “beholden” to the UFC, a manager has said.

“Isn’t that crazy? said another top manager. “Corn [Paul is] the one who has nothing to lose. This might just be the person you need, someone who won’t get blackballed or get caught. It’s a crazy industry. Maybe that’s the one — a guy who’s financially sound and doesn’t care.”


What should Francis Ngannou do next?

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Dana White admits he didn’t belt Francis Ngannou at UFC 270 but says no disrespect was intended.

At UFC 270, Ngannou unified the UFC heavyweight title by defeating former teammate Ciryl Gane by unanimous decision. His future after this victory is very much in question.

Ngannou had no more fights on his last signed UFC contract, but it was automatically extended for three more fights or one year due to the promotion’s champions clause. Ngannou’s team believe he will become a free agent in January 2023. Besides that, Ngannou also needs knee surgery following an injury he suffered in the fight against Gane which left him. will remain absent for at least nine months.

Ngannou has expressed interest in pursuing boxing – which has been his lifelong dream – and he joked on Twitter with heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury. Ngannou appears to want to be able to box and compete in the UFC simultaneously, which would be an unprecedented type of contract. Either way, members of the MMA community believe the Cameroon native is about to get paid dearly.

“I believe that Francis Ngannou will put the market for what a person who is not called Conor [McGregor] or Khabib [Nurmagomedov] can be and win in the UFC,” a future UFC Hall of Fame fighter said. Maybe those numbers don’t match what he would earn in boxing, but if he leaves to go boxing, is that one time thing where he earns that massive amount of money?”

Fury will earn over $32 million for his next fight against Dillian Whyte, which will take home around $8 million. Even that last total would be more than Ngannou, and most MMA fighters for that matter, have had a fight. If Ngannou has a chance to win exponentially more in boxing, an MMA trainer says he should “f — go do it.” However, several members of the MMA community have been put off by the very public negotiations — and blame — Ngannou’s team has had against the UFC over the past few months.

“If you work for Dr Pepper and you piss on Dr Pepper saying how bad the company is or you’re not happy with your salary at Dr Pepper, they’re not going to come out and do a statement. release and say, ‘Hey, he’s absolutely right… now we’re going to reward you and pay you exactly what you wanted,’ one official said.


How can judgment be corrected in MMA?

Sean Strickland won a split decision over Jack Hermansson in the main event of UFC Fight Night on Feb. 5 in Las Vegas. Many felt it was a clear victory for Strickland and were stunned that one judge, Sal D’Amato, scored three out of five rounds for Hermansson.

Strickland’s trainer Eric Nicksick of Xtreme Couture tweeted after the fight that D’Amato should be fired for this score and other mistakes he made. Association of Boxing and Combat Sports Commissions (ABC) President Mike Mazzulli told ESPN that it was essential to examine all of D’Amato’s work over a decade before giving any advice. taken so early.

On Saturday night, Texas judge Rob Alexander came under fire for giving Roxanne Modafferi a win on her card when her opponent, Casey O’Neill, landed the most strikes in a single fight in women’s flyweight history. the UFC. In a fight dominated by O’Neill, a split decision seemed off-putting to many.

The judgment is a constant cause of consternation for fighters, trainers and managers in the MMA community. Last week, several insiders suggested things like increasing the number of judges from three cageside to five, locking judges in a soundproof booth to exclude crowds and noise from corners, and forming a committee to certify judges. national judges.

One of the popular views on scoring is that judges should either be retired fighters or be constantly training and up to date with new techniques in what is an evolving sport. But almost everyone agrees that changes need to be made to how MMA fights are judged and who judges.

A manager compared it to a baseball umpire’s strike zone. If judgment is going to change every fight card, at least be transparent about How? ‘Or’ What it moves.

“Are we weighing more wrestling today?” said the manager. “If his butt touches the ground, that’s a point? Where does the weight of the score go? That’s what I want to know on a constant basis.”


Should Amanda Nunes have left American Top Team?

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Amanda Nunes says she wants to open a private gym to help train MMA athletes in the future.

UFC women’s featherweight champion Nunes, the greatest MMA fighter of all time, said last week she would be leaving American Top Team (ATT) and training at her own facility with a new group of coaches. The startling news comes weeks after Nunes relinquished the UFC women’s bantamweight title to Julianna Peña at UFC 269 in December.

While many last week in Houston said they didn’t know the details of what happened between Nunes and ATT, some said the timing was a red flag.

“The optics look bad,” an official said. “You lose once and you make a change.”

Nunes will train opposite Peña in this season’s The Ultimate Fighter reality series. After the show, Peña will defend his title against Nunes in a rematch on a date to be determined.

“I guess we will know by his performance whether it was a good or a bad decision,” a coach said.

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