Well, that was exciting! After years of boxing fans rubbishing the chances of UFC fighters in the traditional square ring, Francis Ngannou almost went and beat Tyson Fury, the man regarded as the best boxer in the world and the current WBC Heavyweight champion.
Fury’s belt was not on the line, but Ngannou proved that what MMA fans had been saying about his punching power was true. “The Predator” knocked down Fury early on in the fight, and many pundits and fans have questioned the final decision to give the fight to the British boxer.
But where does this leave Ngannou? After such an explosive performance in his first high-profile boxing bout, his options seem endless. The best UFC betting sites don’t seem to think that he will be fighting under that banner for a while – but could UFC president Dana White have a change of heart? Or is it the PFL for Ngannou now? Or maybe even a rematch with Fury? Let’s take a look at the options.
Francis Ngannou UFC Exit
Before we look forward to Ngannou’s next move, we should really remind ourselves of what has happened up to this point. At the beginning of 2023, Francis Ngannou was still the UFC heavyweight champion, but contract negotiations had stalled. He was eventually stripped of his title on January 14th.
Ngannou stated there were a number of issues that he was not happy with concerning a new contract with the UFC. But one of the biggest, as far as the actual fighting was concerned, was that he would not be allowed to pursue a boxing career at the same time. Ngannou and White had a big falling out, and the fighter jumped ship to the PFL.
Tyson Fury Fight
Although Ngannou signed up with the PFL MMA organization, his next piece of business was a boxing bout with Tyson Fury. No one really gave the former UFC champ a chance against the best boxer in the world. But the British boxer was floored in the third round and only just survived a split decision in Riyadh.
The fight had been billed as “The Battle of the Baddest”, and Fury came through it as the victor. But it is arguably also true to say that Ngannou was the real winner on the night. He can now be regarded as a fearsome bona fide boxer and seemingly has the choice of a number of big-money options before him.
Return to UFC
This is probably the most unlikely of next steps for Francis Ngannou’s career. Dana White will have been seething to see his former champion proving everyone wrong in Saudi Arabia. Business sense would say that he should welcome Ngannou back into the fold with open arms.
It is not as if Ngannou is against the idea of rejoining the UFC. But the important factor here is that the fighter now holds all the cards. White will not like that and will probably refuse to give in to Ngannou. So that means that what would be a huge fight between Ngannou and Jon Jones will probably not happen.
MMA With PFL
So, if not a return to the octagon, how about a move back into MMA and the SmartCage of the PFL? Ngannou’s performance against Fury has undoubtedly raised the profile of the fledging MMA organization. Not many outside of the sport knew of its existence before – and now it is a major player in the future of one of the biggest names in fighting.
Ngannou would be by far the biggest star in the PFL and could become the new heavyweight champion there. There has also been talk of a combined promotion with the UFC. The PFL obviously holds a stake in the future of Francis Ngannou but it seems more likely that it will see what its most bankable star wants to do before issuing any demands.
Even with Ngannou saying that he would love to return to MMA, the smart money surely has to be on the fighter signing up for some more money-spinning boxing bouts. He will be able to earn far more money in that ring now that he has shown what an opponent he can be.
A rematch with Tyson Fury would be the most obvious next step, giving fight fans the chance to see if the first bout was a fluke. Fury might like that option, using it as a way of cementing his reputation and showing the first fight as a “bad day at the office”. Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua are other boxers who have been put up as possible opponents for Ngannou.
Whatever happens next, Francis Ngannou has proved the doubters wrong and shown that he is more than capable of going up against the very best boxers in the world. It seems as though there are very few that could actually defeat him in that format of fighting at the present time.
A perfect future for Ngannou would probably be the possibility of fighting the likes of Wilder and Joshua – and maybe even Fury again – as well as returning to MMA. His team will now know that they control the situation, though, leaving the UFC and others to negotiate with him. He may have lost the fight against Fury – but Francis Ngannou has definitely come out on top.
Featured image credits to Embed from Getty Images