Heading into his boxing match against WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, one would have been hard-pressed to find more than a handful of combat sports pundits who thought former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Nagnnou had a chance to go the distance with Fury, let alone pull off the upset win. Ngannou exceeded all expectations in that contest, scoring a knockdown in the third round before the MMA fighter-turned-boxer went the distance against Fury. Fury won the fight by split decision, but Ngannou, who had never fought in a pro boxing match before facing Fury, walked away from the contest, which took place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with a bright future.
According to MMA Fighting, Saudi royal adviser Turki Alalshikh had already submitted a bid to retain Ngannou for his next boxing contest. The site added that Ngannou and PFL boss Donn Davis were looking into a matchup opposite former WBC heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder under the PFL banner. Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn also got in on the act, discussing a possible crossover matchup against former WBA, IBF, WBO, and IBO heavyweight boxing titleholder Anthony Joshua.
As for Ngannou’s head coach at Xtreme Couture, Eric Nicksick, he would like to see Ngannou’s current MMA promotion, the PFL, work with his former promotion, the UFC, to set up a superfight against current UFC heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
“In a perfect world, for me, I still want that Jon Jones fight,” Nicksick said on The MMA Hour. “Hell yeah, I do. Just because I want to compete against the best, and I think Jon is the best. I don’t want any more guesses about who is the baddest man on the planet. Let’s run it. Let’s do it.”
“You can make that happen,” Nicksick added. “Both sides can make that happen if they really wanted to. Set your egos aside, let’s get Allegiant Stadium [in Las Vegas], let’s give what the fans want, and let’s get Jon and Francis, and let’s see who the baddest man on the planet is.
“I want to compete against the best. I’ve said that time and time again. It’s no disrespect to Jon. I think he’s the best to ever do it, but I want that opportunity to coach against him, and I want that opportunity to go beat the guy.”
There had been discussions about a Ngannou vs. Jones fight while Ngannou was with the UFC, but injuries and contract disputes prevented that fight from getting past the talking stages. When Ngannou left the UFC as a free agent, it seemed as if any hope of a scrap with Jones taking place evaporated. However, Ngannou’s stellar performance against Fury reignited talk of that matchup.
The way Nicksick sees it, no one loses if the UFC decides to co-promote that fight with the PFL, who Ngannou signed with in May of this year.
“Everybody wins at the end of the day. Everybody wins. The fans win. The fighters win. The promoters win,” said Nicksick. “Possibly even the UFC because look at this way, Francis obviously is kind of making them eat their words. He walked away for free, and he’s going out and doing his thing. At the end of the day, that’s what we wanted. We wanted to box and do it under the Zuffa banner and co-promote. I think anything’s possible.”
“I think [UFC CEO] Dana [White] and the UFC are smart businessmen,” Nicksick added. “If the business is right, the logistics are right, I think you set your ego aside and just make it happen.”