Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Francis Ngannou will be out for nine months.

Francis Ngannou, who defended his title at UFC 270 despite reportedly having a completely torn MCL and damaged ACL, will be continuing with his plan to get knee surgery. According to ESPN the procedure has been set for March 18, with the timeframe for recovery being around nine months.

The UFC heavyweight champion has long been dissatisfied with the promotion, and the timing of this surgery and recovery could work for his goal to get free of his current contract. Should he fail to book another fight within the year — which will be the likely scenario if he sits out for nine months — he could be a free agent by 2023.

While that timeframe looks to be in line with their original plans, Ngannou’s manager, Marquel Martin of CAA, says they’re still looking forward to trying to negotiate with the UFC during this time period.

“I appreciated and supported the UFC’s dinner invitation to Francis,” Martin told ESPN. “I believe Francis and Dana needed to get together in that kind of setting. We’re all looking forward now to sitting down with the UFC in a professional capacity to map out the next chapter in Francis’s journey.”

While the relationship seemed irreparable at certain points that got ugly, Dana White has also been optimistic. The UFC President says they’re likely to meet soon and he’s “hopeful and confident” that they get a deal done and have Ngannou remain with the UFC.

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