Couture, a UFC Hall of Famer and former two-division champion, infamously clashed with the UFC brass in the early 2000s as he tried to get free from his contract to take a fight with Fedor Emelianenko. He was one of the first big stars that had long, public conflicts with the promotion over things like pay and contract restrictions.
There were some parallels with his situation and that of Ngannou, the former UFC heavyweight titleholder who parted ways with the organization earlier this month after failing to finalize a new contract.
“The Natural” revealed during an interview with MMA Junkie Radio that he was asked for advice on Ngannou’s situation through Xtreme Couture head coach Eric Nicksick.
“My only input to Francis was to stick to his guns,” Couture said. “If this is something for his well-being, his family, his career, he wants to stand up for, then by all means stand up.
“Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of fighters who are going to get in line and support him in that. I felt the same way when I stood up in 2001 and fought over my rights, and then again in 2006 over being misled about what was going on and where I stood in the sport at that time too.
“I don’t even know who Francis’ manager is. My engagement is in a training environment with Eric Nicksick, who’s one of his coaches, his main coach. They asked me how I felt about this, what was going on. Obviously, Francis isn’t the only one chirping about fighter pay and all this stuff, and Dana (White) is certainly getting an earful from Jake Paul on this regard with the difference between boxing and MMA. I just told him to be true to himself. If this is what he wants, then he needs to hold their feet to the fire and get what he wants.”
Couture believes the UFC actually gave Ngannou a fair offer in terms of what’s possible for fighters to make in MMA. Ngannou recently hinted he was offered around $8 million to defend his title against Jon Jones at UFC 285 in March.
However, Ngannou has made it clear he wanted more than just money, because he had other demands that pertained to his contract as well as for the rest of the fighters on the roster. This lead to Ngannou walking away from the promotion as a free agent and being stripped of his UFC belt.
Couture thinks that despite the price tag being solid from UFC, Ngannou could still find bigger paydays in boxing. But personally, as commentator and brand ambassador for PFL, he’d like to see Ngannou join the PFL roster, because he argue there are favorable conditions he can find there.
“The money that they came back with was pretty reasonable if you gauge where everyone else is at in the sport of mixed martial arts,” Couture explained. “Is it boxing money? Nowhere near. Ask Tyron Woodley, ask Ben Askren, ask Anderson Silva how much they made in those crossover fights. Ask Conor McGregor how much he made for those cross over fights.
“It’s not out of the question to see that Francis may end up in the boxing world. There was some talk about that. I hope that he ends up in the PFL. I know that Ray (Sefo, PFL president) is talking to him. We’ll see where he ends up. He’ll be a great addition to the heavyweight division in PFL. And if you want pay-per-view, that’s a model that the PFL is starting now. Man, put him vs. Ante Delija. I would pay to see that fight. That’s a great fight.”