It is standard practice that when a UFC championship fight comes to an end, White wraps the title around the waist of the winner. He wasn’t there to do it after Francis Ngannou successfully defended the heavyweight title against Ciryl Gane this past Saturday in Anaheim, Calif., and there was an outpour of speculation as to why.
The major narrative in the lead-up to UFC 270 centered around Ngannou’s contract dispute with the UFC. “The Predator” has said repeatedly he’s not happy with the terms of his contract and has felt disrespected by the organization’s brass, and in a rare move, he fought out the final bout of his deal with the win over Gane.
Ngannou’s contract extended to the end of 2022 via a champion’s clause, but according to him and his team, he doesn’t have to take a fight this year for the deal to run out. It doesn’t seem likely Ngannou would compete this year, anyway, as it was revealed on Wednesday that he’s undergoing surgery on the injured knee he fought and won with at UFC 270.
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The public saga led to speculation that White was upset by Ngannou’s victory, and therefore left the arena floor instead of presenting the champion and his belt. A narrative that was only bolstered by the UFC boss failing to attend the post-fight news conference.
White spoke publicly for the first time on Wednesday, however, and said the reality is nothing of the sort. During an ESPN+ Q&A hosted by Laura Sanko, White took it upon himself to explain the situation.
“I actually walked out of the arena right after the co-main event because there was stuff going on that I was dealing with,” White said. “For anybody to think I was showing any type of disrespect toward Francis, I saw Francis all week, you idiots. I shook his hand. I said hi to him. I was out there for the staredowns, the whole thing. So for anybody to think that there was some type of disrespect toward Francis, I wasn’t out there for Michael Bisping vs. (Luke) Rockhold’s fight, either, because I was dealing with some stuff. I sprinted from the back. I didn’t even have my jacket on. I only had my shirt on to go and put the belt on Bisping, but I couldn’t make it out there to put the belt on Francis.”
— Jed I. Goodman © (@jedigoodman) January 27, 2022
White added that, in his recollection, there are almost no other instances of him disrespectful a titleholder in that scenario.
The lone example White could point to was UFC 112, where Anderson Silva and Demian Maia put on a lackluster middleweight title contest in the UFC’s debut event in Abu Dhabi, which held major significance due to new investments into the company from within the region.
“There’s only been one time that I’ve walked out on a fight and made it very clear, showed up to the press conference and said this is exactly why I left,” White said.