Francis Ngannou has fielded offers from several prominent promotions since his split with the UFC earlier this year. The former UFC heavyweight champion settled on three promotions as his potential choices for a new home: Professional Fighters League (PFL), Bellator and ONE Championship. The only thing that needed to be addressed now was: Which one would Ngannou choose?
Bellator president Scott Coker said Ngannou signing with him was ’50-50 at this point’ in February. PFL president Ray Sefo said ongoing discussions with the ‘Predator’ were ‘all positive’ in April. But ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong upped the ante recently, saying he is preparing a final offer for Ngannou.
Chatri Sityodtong sitting down with Francis Ngannou
During an appearance on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, Sityodtong revealed he was sitting down with Ngannou soon.
“[Ngannou] has a bunch of offers on the table,” said Sityodtong. “He’s waiting for our final offer. I am going to meet Francis this Saturday [in Los Angeles]. He and I will sit down and talk and — for sure, ONE can give him the biggest offer on the table out of all his bids, but it has to work for him, it has to work for us. I just believe that meeting somebody, you get the energy.
“I think there’s going to be big news on Francis shortly, and I think he’s taking his time,” continued Sityodtong. “From the few interactions I’ve had with Francis, he’s very thoughtful and methodical and careful. At the same time, he’s a very principled man. That’s one thing I’ve learned about him. He’s very principled. He does things on principle. A dollar here, a dollar there won’t sway him. It’s principles. That’s what’s very admirable about him. At the same time, I do believe the world is his oyster. I do believe he’s a big pay-per-view draw in boxing or in MMA.”
Sityodtong willing to accommodate Ngannou’s boxing request
One of the requests Ngannou had when negotiating a new contract with the UFC was a special clause that would allow him to box. For the Cameroonian, ‘testing himself’ against names such as Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury in the boxing ring needed to happen.
Because it features several disciplines, Sityodtong says ONE can help Ngannou pursue those boxing matches.
“If we did boxing, we would be the co-promoter with him,” said Sityodtong. “One of the big differences at ONE versus, and I’ll use a UFC as a comparison point, is at ONE we offer multiple disciplines. It’s not just mixed martial arts. So we had a WBC boxing world title before in ONE. This was in 2017 or 2018. It was a regular ONE show, you saw Muay Thai, you saw the grappling, you saw MMA, and we had a boxing world title fight. So the platform we’ve built, we really want the very, very best fighters on the planet.”
Sityodtong explains why Ngannou will be challenged in ONE
Though Sityodtong wants the ‘very, very best fighters,’ including Ngannou, he warns that the 36-year-old could struggle against some names he already has on the ONE roster.
“I like Francis. I think he brings a lot to the table. I think that he’ll have a tough time in our heavyweight division, to be very frank, which I’ve said publicly and I think it’s a big challenge for Francis,” said Sityodtong. When you look at a guy like Anatoly Malykhin, he’s 12-0, was a former a former Russian National Team wrestler, one-punch KO power. He’s 12-0 with an 80 percent finish rate. That is the worst nightmare to face in a big striker like Ngannou, but at the same time Francis has an ‘X’ factor. He’s a giant monster.
“I think that Francis will run through the heavyweight divisions of all the other organizations,” continued Sityodtong. “The only heavyweight division that will give him a challenge [is ONE Championship].”
Anatoly Malykhin and his team have already set their sights on a potential fight with Ngannou should he join ONE Championship. Coach John Hutchinson warned the ‘Predator’ that he could be next for his student following his unification against ONE heavyweight champion Arjan Bhullar.
“When that little soft bum Arjan comes out of hiding, we promise it will be over very fast in a powerful blink of an eye,” wrote Hutchinson. “Making room faster than ever for the real fight to happen. [Francis Ngannou] you should of stayed where your [sic] at when you had the chance. Your [sic] about to face the biggest challenge [Anatoly Malykhin]. Contract pending, let’s see who’s the undisputed king is.”
Ngannou has not fought since his title unification against Ciryl Gane at UFC 270 a year ago.
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