Daniel Cormier: It’s ‘not true’ that Francis Ngannou left UFC to avoid Jon Jones

Daniel Cormier rejects the narrative Francis Ngannou parted ways with the UFC so he didn’t have to fight Jon Jones.

The heavyweight division received a major shakeup on Saturday when UFC president Dana White announced Ngannou (17-3 MMA, 12-2 UFC) had been stripped of the title and was exiting the promotion after the two sides failed to come to terms on a new contract.

White stated Ngannou wanted to fight “lesser competition for more money,” and wasn’t super keen on sharing the octagon with Jones. Cormier, a UFC Hall of Famer and two-time opponent of Jones, disagrees with that notion and was happy to see Ngannou get the freedom in his career to choose his next move.

With him leaving and belt becoming vacant, Jones (26-1 MMA, 20-1 UFC) will now face Ciryl Gane (11-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) in the main event of UFC 285 on March 4 in Las Vegas. No matter who wins that fight, though, Cormier said they are in a tough battle with public perception.

“Isn’t it ironic that Jon Jones is fighting for a vacant championship? Do you guys remember what I went through when I won the (vacant) belt?,” Cormier said on his YouTube channel. “Now it’s different. Jon hasn’t fought Francis before, but isn’t it ironic that he’s in this situation now? My advice to you Jon is get thick skin, because people will be unrelenting. Right now because Francis left it’s almost like Francis avoided Jones. That’s not true.

“Francis would’ve fought Jon Jones on any day of the week. Let’s not get crazy, fans. Fans always come up with these ideas. But trust me Jones, it’s going to flip to, ‘Is he the real champion because he didn’t beat Francis Ngannou?’ If he wins that fight against Ciryl Gane. Which is not guaranteed, because Ciryl Gane is as good as they come.”

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Politics aside, Cormier said he’s highly anticipating the clash between Jones and Gane. It will be Jones’s return to competition after a 37-month layoff, and Gane has proven himself to be elite in recent years.

Cormier said he intends on being on commentary at UFC 285, and is eager to see the way the two skillsets align.

“I honestly believe this match up is a much better matchup for us as fans, because technically you have two guys that are going to be as skilled as we have ever seen in the heavyweight division,” Cormier said. “This is coming from me, a guy that has fought in the heavyweight division, has held the championship that fought some of the best in the world.

“Ciryl Gane’s movements and the way he attacks is going to make him very difficult for Jones. Because as good as Jones is, Jones isn’t a guy that moves very much. He’s very stationary and going forward. He’s long, so he uses those long-range weapons to really take control of guys like me and other guys he fought in the octagon. But he’s not guy that movs around and creates a ton of angles. A lot of straight and long-range weapons. … The issue with Ciryl Gane is you’re going to have a bigger guy that possesses a lot of those same qualities with the ability to move.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 285.

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Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie