Francis Ngannou Guarantees Boxing Crossover: Wants Wilder, Fury

Francis Ngannou Guarantees Boxing Crossover: Wants Wilder, Fury

UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou is scheduled to fight Ciryl Gane on Jan. 22 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. headlining UFC 270. 

The MMA match marks the last fight left on Ngannou’s UFC contract.

“The Predator” has been a force in the UFC since joining the promotion in 2015. Ngannou (16-3, 12 KOs) won the title in March when he knocked out Stipe Miocic to avenge his 2018 loss. Ngannou is riding a five-fight winning streak – all by knockout – yet, the UFC is still not catering to his contractual demands. 

The 35-year-old Cameroonian has forever wanted to pursue a path in pugilism dating back to his pre-MMA career. Now at a career crossroads, the 6-foot 4-inch, 260-plus pounder is all but guaranteeing a crossover into boxing in the immediate future. 

“It’s always been down the line. This is something I’m not taking my eyes off of. It’s gonna happen, either way. Even if, when the UFC and I finalize a deal, the boxing part has to be into it because I can’t see myself retiring without boxing,” Ngannou told TMZ.

“Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder. I would like to test myself to that level.

“It’s not the same sport, although I’m the champion, I’m in the top in this division. At the end of the day, it’s just about like trained hands, trained punches, having a good delivery system to produce bombs and I’m sure that if I deliver my own punch, it’s pretty good, I can make some damage.”

Ngannou’s future will be decided based on the next deal he and manager Marquel Martin of Creative Arts Agency will be able to iron out with UFC president Dana White. 

White recently joined Teddy Atlas’ podcast to further offer details around his star’s expiring deal, and in the process, fired shots at Ngannou’s team. 

“Francis and I bumped into each other the other night at dinner,” said White. “We had a good talk and he’s not out of the contract if he wins that fight. I think he’s got one more fight with us after that. I say it all the time, this sport’s fun for me. I love doing this, and contrary to the narrative out there, we’ve made a lot of people very wealthy.

“If you don’t want to be here, if this is not where you want to be, well, that’s not fun for you and it’s definitely not fun for me, either. They are all grown men and women, and everybody has to make their own decisions in life and go down their own paths, but I think Francis and I had a good conversation.

“I think Francis has been misguided by some people who aren’t very bright. That doesn’t help either when you’ve got some people behind you who have no f——- clue what they’re talking about. It doesn’t help your situation.”

Should Ngannou beat Gane, the UFC could tap into a champion’s clause and extend his deal. If Ngannou loses, the UFC could match any rival offer inside a 90-day window.  

Martin recently joined Sirius XM to share his side of the story. 

“From the beginning, we’ve always and still do remain, like, open to negotiating with the UFC,” said Martin. “Even from my standpoint and his representation’s standpoint, UFC is the best MMA promoter in the game, in the business. However, where a lot of people don’t want to come out and say or mean is that it has to make sense for the client. It has to make sense for Francis.

“At the end of the day, I work for Francis, and he and I spent a lot of time chatting back and forth and trying to understand, OK, exactly what does that mean for his future, and we’ve had a lot of back and forth with the UFC. But to be honest with you, I haven’t heard back from the UFC since, I want to say, June.”

Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com or on www.ManoukAkopyan.com

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