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If UFC president Dana White is to be believed, former heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou will never step into the Octagon again as an active UFC fighter. White shut the door on a future Ngannou return when speaking with media members after UFC 285's ceremonial weigh-ins on Friday.

Ngannou officially became a free agent in January when he and the UFC could not reach an agreement on a new contract following the expiration of his previous contract in December. Ngannou had previously been vocal about his displeasure over his fight purses, leading to an increasingly bitter dispute between the sides.

"No. We negotiated with him for years," White said when asked if a Ngannou return was possible. "It's over, that's over. He'll never be in the UFC again. ... I never say never, but I'll give you a never on that one. We tried."

Ngannou left the UFC on a six-fight winning streak and as the heavyweight champion. In his final UFC bout, Ngannou defeated Ciryl Gane by decision.

Gane will now fight former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones for the vacant title at UFC 285 on Saturday.

White has a history of going back on big declarations, including when he stated women would never fight in the UFC. Valentina Shevchenko makes the eighth defense of her women's flyweight championship in Saturday's co-main event.

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