UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou will have to undergo knee surgery before he is able to train or compete again, his manager, Marquel Martin, told ESPN on Wednesday.
Ngannou (17-3) unified the UFC heavyweight championship by defeating Ciryl Gane (10-1) by unanimous decision at UFC 270 last weekend in Anaheim, California. Immediately after, Ngannou revealed he went into the five-round bout with an injured knee. He suffered a torn MCL and damaged ACL during sparring sessions in the build-up to the fight.
Ngannou, 35, underwent medical evaluation in Los Angeles on Monday. According to Martin, Ngannou plans to return to his native Cameroon soon and he and his team did not want the surgery to interfere with those plans. He will undergo a procedure to repair the ACL when he returns to the U.S., with an estimated recovery timeframe of nine months, Martin said.
"I continue to be amazed and inspired by Francis' heart and resilience," Martin told ESPN. "Fighting on one leg to overcome all odds, and remind the world he is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. I think we can all agree he deserves some time to go back home and be with his family and countrymen.
"Upon his return, we plan on getting surgery and starting the recovery process so we can get him back to 100 percent as soon as possible. In the meantime, we hope we can find a peaceful resolution in these contract talks. We'd like to thank all the fans for their continued support and belief in Francis."
Ngannou is in a unique position, as last weekend marked the eighth appearance of an eight-fight deal he signed with the UFC in 2017. He is still under exclusive contract with the UFC because of a champion's clause, but he told ESPN prior to UFC 270 he would not fight again under the terms of his current deal.
Whether the UFC and Ngannou can come to terms on a new deal remains to be seen. The two sides have made multiple efforts to reach a new deal, coming close to doing so in 2021. UFC president Dana White was noticeably absent after Ngannou defeated Gane in Anaheim and has not spoken publicly on Ngannou's contract since.
According to California State Athletic Commission records, Ngannou's purse for UFC 270 was $600,000. That figure does not include any sponsorships or potential pay-per-view bonuses. In an interview on "The MMA Hour" this week, Ngannou estimated he left $7 million "on the table" over his past two fights by not signing a new deal but that he was ultimately displeased by some of the terms of those offers.
Ngannou has fought exclusively in the UFC for the majority of his MMA career. He has repeatedly expressed a desire to box professionally, and he told ESPN his next contract must afford him the opportunity to do so.