Heavyweight has become the division of drama for the UFC as of late. It started with the public battle between Jon Jones and the promotion over Jones' pay as he plans to debut in the division. Now, there's a new war of words ongoing because champion Francis Ngannou and his team are not exactly thrilled with UFC's plans for an interim title fight in August.
On Monday, it was announced that Ciryl Gane and Derrick Lewis would meet for the interim title at UFC 265 in August. The announcement came just three months after Ngannou won the heavyweight title with a violent knockout of Stipe Miocic, making the UFC's decision curious to many as interim titles are not generally created so quickly.
Ngannou responded to the situation by pointing out that he had been in a similar situation of being ready for a title shot, but the UFC chose not to add an interim title to his battle with Jairzinho Rozenstruik in May 2020. That fight came during a stretch of slightly more than a year where then-champion Miocic was recovering from eye surgery before fighting Daniel Cormier for a third time.
I remember my interim title fight against Jairzinho .... oh wait 🙄— Francis Ngannou (@francis_ngannou) June 28, 2021
"This comes as a complete shock. To make an interim title so soon, if you look at the history of this division, it comes as a surprise. Francis is just now returning to the States to begin training, and he just won the title three months ago," Ngannou's agent, Marquel Martin, told ESPN's Brett Okamoto. "We're unsure of what the reasoning is behind this, but we hope to get clarity soon and figure out something with the UFC soon. At the end of the day, they're in control of these decisions."
UFC president Dana White took issue with the statement from Martin, who is a part of powerful talent agency CAA, responding to an Okamoto social media post.
"This dude is so full of shit!" White wrote. "He knows exactly what's going on and isn't 'shocked' at all. Because we told him several times this was coming. His management is incompetent and hopefully Francis starts taking a look at new people to help his career."
White has a long history of attacking fighters and their representation, but CAA is a powerhouse in the talent agent industry, representing massive names from the sports, television and film world.
Martin did not back down from White's comments, instead upping the intensity and daring White to release all emails, calls and texts regarding the situation and stating that he has no fear of being blackballed by the promotion.
"Complete shock with your decision after we said September was good for us," Martin wrote in reply to White on the Instagram post. "Complete shock that you guys made threats after less than three months after you all were aware. Complete shock after you knew why Francis needed more time. That is correct. I know you're passionate but you are trying to discredit by integrity when I've been nothing but respectful to you, Hunter [Campbell] and your entire staff? Speaks more about you than it does me. I'm not even mad, I'm actually impressed that I've gotten your attention.
"Incompetent management? I think we've done a damn good job. I think you really don't like the fact that Francis is being represented by not only me but an entire agency, one which you can't control. Hence why you have people tryin to rep him all the time to your benefit. [Laughing crying emoji.] I tell you what, let's disclose everything for people to see. Emails, calls, texts, everything. Deal? Cause I'm ready to get blackballed by the UFC. I'm not defined by it, you or anyone else for that matter. How's that sound? Sincerely, your old employee, Marquel Martin."