Francis Ngannou out-grappled Cyril Gane at UFC 270 in Anaheim, California on Saturday night to retain his UFC heavyweight crown before wrestling with questions about his future amid a feud with the promotion over his contract.
Famed for his frightening knockout power, the Senegalese fighter changed tack to deal with the threat of his former sparring partner Gane to win a decision victory before revealing that he had torn knee ligaments in the run-up to the fight.
"If you feel like there's a chance that you can do it (fight), then you have to do it. I believe in myself, I've been through a lot of stuff in my life," Ngannou told a press conference.
The 35-year-old was homeless for a period after moving to France to become a boxer before coach Fernand Lopez introduced him to the MMA Factory gym in Paris, allowing him to sleep there while moulding him into one of the sport's most feared fighters.
Despite being the defending champion, Ngannou's purse for the title defence was $600,000 according to the California State Athletic Commission, a fraction of what he could earn from a boxing match with the likes of Tyson Fury.
That fee does not include any possible share of pay-per-view revenues that Ngannou may have been entitled to, but the fighter feels he deserves more.
"It's not simply money. Obviously, money is a part of it but it's also the terms of the contract, I don't agree with it, I don't feel like it's fair, I don't feel like I'm free, I don't feel like I have been treated good," Ngannou told reporters.
UFC president Dana White did not attend the post-fight press conference.
In the co-main event, Brazil's Deiveson Figueiredo scored a unanimous decision victory over Brandon Moreno to win back the flyweight belt that he lost to the Mexican the last time the two met in June 2021.
(Reporting by Philip O'Connor Editing by Gareth Jones)