It’s tough to ignore that the bulk of the promotion leading up to UFC 220 has been swirling around fearsome heavyweight contender Francis Ngannou, who competes in the main event against champion Stipe Miocic.
While Miocic has a chance to set the all time record for title defenses in the heavyweight division this weekend, Ngannou’s highlight reel knockouts and unreal punching power has been the focus of most of the attention ahead of the event.
Miocic has gone as far as even suggesting that the UFC would prefer Ngannou win because he’s a marketable fighter versus the non-trash talking Ohio native, who prefers to let his fists sell his fights rather than anything he says in the lead up to an event.
UFC president Dana White refutes Miocic’s worries by pointing out that Ngannou is just getting the lion’s share of attention because he’s such a hot prospect right now but the reigning heavyweight champion has as chance to snuff all that out on Saturday night.
“When you have a guy like Francis Ngannou that comes out and is who he is and does what he does and you make this fight, all fighters are paranoid. They’re all paranoid,” White explained on the “Toucher and Rich” show in Boston. “How can I make Stipe lose? Only Stipe can make Stipe lose. We put together the fights with the best fighters in the world and they go out and whoever wins, wins and whoever loses, loses. It’s up to Stipe.
Of course it’s no secret that Miocic has been at odds with the UFC in the past regarding his contract situation, particularly after learning how much money his opponent Alistair Overeem made for their fight in Sept. 2016 versus what he was taking home as the defending champion.
As of now, Miocic still hasn’t reached an agreement on a new long term deal with the UFC but White says that while negotiations on a contract may get heated, he never holds any kind of ill will towards a fighter except under extenuating circumstances.
“Stipe is one of the nicest guys in the world. I like this guy. We’ve butted heads professionally as far as business goes in the last year and a half but other than that he’s a super nice guy. But I butt heads with everybody at some point professionally at one point or another. I don’t wish anybody to win or lose,” White said.
“The only time I’ve had that ‘god I hope he gets his ass kicked’ is Tito Ortiz. Me and Tito Ortiz had a horrible relationship. We went back a long way, we completely hated each other, we were very public about it but there’s no other fighters like that, that I feel that way about. Luke Rockhold and I don’t have a great relationship either. But no, he’s completely off base on that one.”