Sean Strickland respects Francis Ngannou’s decision to leave the UFC but wouldn’t do the same: ‘I’m a f****** sellout’

MMA Fighting

Earlier this year, Francis Ngannou officially parted ways with the UFC.

After a year on the shelf recovering from surgery and extended negotiations, Ngannou and the UFC were unable to come to terms to have the heavyweight champion re-sign with the promotion. Among the sticking points for Ngannou were things like outside sponsorship, health insurance, a three-fight contract, and the ability to pursue boxing matches while still under contract with the UFC. When the UFC would not cater to any of those requests, Ngannou ultimately decided to leave the promotion, turning down a substantial sum of money in the process.

It was a principled stance from Ngannou — one that his teammate at Xtreme Couture, Sean Strickland, respects, even if he wouldn’t do the same.

“I respect Francis for that,” Strickland said on The MMA Hour. “I’m going off what Eric [Nicksick] said, and if that was legit and he was just like, ‘Hey, I want to own my brand, I want to be who I am, it’s not about the money,’ I respect that. Me, personally, I’m not that f****** way. You f****** give me money, I’ll give you my name, I don’t give a f***. So I respect that fact that he stood by what he believed in and he did what he wanted to do. I’m personally not that way, I’m a f****** sellout.”

But while Strickland is decidedly supportive of the UFC, that doesn’t mean he thinks everything is perfect. The recent passing of UFC Hall of Famer Stephan Bonnar, also an Xtreme Couture fighter, seems to have struck a chord with Strickland.

“I’m a f****** company guy,” Strickland said. “I love the UFC. I think my commitment to the UFC is not in question. But you’ve got to think, how much money do you think the UFC made off Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin over the years, selling it? … I’m not saying they have an obligation to give that pie to Stephan Bonnar but … if he had a piece of that pie, even a small piece, it could’ve changed his f****** life.

“I guess this comes back down to Francis, wanting more of himself. He wants to own more of himself. I love the UFC, I’m happy, I’m doing things right, I’m making great money, but you look at guys like Stephan Bonnar, who paved the way and made the UFC f****** millions, and the pie definitely was not shared.

“There is a company hierarchy and I don’t want people to think that I’m bad-mouthing the UFC. I make more in this company — I made more that fight than if it wasn’t for the UFC than I would have made in my entire f****** life. So I’m very grateful for it, it’s just sometimes you see the Stephan Bonnars and s***.”

Strickland has backed up his claim of being a “company guy” over the years.

Always willing to step in and fight nearly anyone, earlier this month he fought rising prospect Nassourdine Imavov on one week’s notice, after the UFC’s planned fight between Imavov and Kelvin Gastelum fell through. Strickland ended up winning the bout, earning “a decent amount of money” and the gratitude of the UFC.

But make no mistake, Strickland has no illusions about his career.

“It’s just another day for me,” Strickland said.

“You get a lot of people in this sport, they win a fight and they get a little bit of money, we’re talking a little bit of money — I love the UFC, you guys employ me and give me more money, but a lot of money to the UFC is a very little bit of money in any other sport. So you get these white trash, or trashy f*****s that get a little bit of money and think, ‘I’m going to go buy me a suit,’ and they buy a f****** suit and get a couple Instagram followers and get a blue check mark and the next thing you know, they think they’re the next greatest thing. No, dude, you’re a caveman. You get locked in a cage and fight for money.

“So when I win and I get paid … I love the money I make, but at the end of the day, I am not confused. I know what the f*** I am. I go into a cage and sacrifice my f****** brains for money. It’s not glamorous, it’s not f****** cool, and after the fights I’m just happy that I’m not more f***** up than I should be.”

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