With Francis Ngannou now said to have a PPV cut and a $2 million purse waiting for his next opponent in MMA, most pundits expect a pretty big name fighter to try and step up to the challenge. So who will the lineal MMA heavyweight champion face on his PFL debut?
UFC legend Randy Couture now works for PFL as a commentator, and he was about leading candidates and possible opponents for Ngannou.
PFL’s Randy Couture suggests opponent for Francis Ngannou
“I’ll tell you what, Ante Delija won last year’s championship in stellar fashion. He was very highly touted when we signed him,” Couture told MMA Junkie. “He struggled with the format early on, and I think he sorted it out. He figured out what he needed to do in his training and his preparation and his game planning to get through a whole regular season, and make it to the playoffs and the championship.
“So that’s a fight I’d love to see. He’s a game fighter. He’s a solid well-rounded fighter. Francis Ngannou and Ante Delija, that would be a great fight. I would watch that fight, I would pay a pay-per-view to watch that fight!”
Couture isn’t exactly unbiased, and I’m not sure how many people would share that same sentiment.
MMA fans looking for a high profile opponent for a big PPV splash will likely hope Couture doesn’t get his way here. No disrespect to Delija, who is a solid fighter, but he currently lacks that big name recognition and will take a lot more build up to convince people to pay a pretty high price tag for Ngannou’s debut on PPV.
Who is Ante Delija?
Ante Delija is the 2022 PFL heavyweight champion. Delija was part of PFL’s 2021 season, and as Couture noted, he struggled early on and went 2-2 that year, with two losses to Bruno Cappelozza. He found more success in 2022, winning all four of his bouts to win the title and the $1 million prize.
Delija doesn’t have many big names on his resume, but has a solid record of 23-5. He has a win in Rizin over Ricardo Prasel, and other victories in KSW and other orgs over recognizable MMA journeymen like Oli Thompson and Valentijn Overeem. His last loss before joining PFL was an M-1 Global bout against future UFC contender Marcin Tybura back in 2015.
Delija was previously linked to a UFC debut against Ciryl Gane in 2020, but he had contract issues that prevented that from happening.
Delija is currently penned to face UFC vet Maurice Greene at PFL 5 this June. Can he parlay another successful season, build on his name, and eventually get a lucrative bout with Francis Ngannou?
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