Francis Ngannou’s next fight? – 3 best opponents in both boxing and MMA

Francis Ngannou didn't beat Tyson Fury but he won the story. Here are some options that could be next for "The Predator."

By: Blaine Henry | 1 month ago
Francis Ngannou’s next fight? – 3 best opponents in both boxing and MMA
Tom Hogan / Hoganphotos, IMAGO

As @RevKoka said on X (Twitter?) Francis N’Gannou didn’t win the fight, but he did win the story.

In case you missed it, Francis Ngannou was defeated by Tyson Fury last night in the latest crossover fight between MMA and boxing. The fight, which was a split decision, saw Ngannou, not Tyson Fury, emerge the victor in people’s eyes and is the new “people’s champion.” Today I want to pontificate on what could be next for the newest heavyweight contender in boxing.

The writer’s choice: Francis Ngannou vs. Deontay Wilder

“Mom, I want Francis Ngannou vs. Deontay Wilder.”

Mom: “We have Francis Ngannou vs. Deontay Wilder at home.”

Francis Ngannou vs. Deontay Wilder at home:

MMA: UFC 226-Ngannou vs Lewis, Jul 7, 2018; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Francis Ngannou (red gloves) fights Derrick Lewis (blue gloves) during UFC 226 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports, 07.07.2018 20:58:04, 10927386, Francis Ngannou, Derrick Lewis, T-Mobile Arena, MMA PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY 10927386
Francis Ngannou vs. Derrick Lewis at UFC 226. | Stephen R. Sylvanie / USA TODAY Network, IMAGO

All jokes aside, Francis Ngannou versus Deontay Wilder has to be the fight to make. Neither are champions in the boxing world but are the hardest hitters in the sport. Wilder has been looking for a big fight and after his performance last night, Francis Ngannou is the name with the fame. With Oleksandr Usyk likely taking on Tyson Fury for the undisputed heavyweight crown and Anthony Joshua seemingly ducking Wilder, this one could be possible.

Before the fight with Tyson Fury was booked, Francis Ngannou and Deontay Wilder were in negotiations for a boxing and MMA deal. With Ngannou being signed to PFL, this could be a route the PFL team could pursue with Ngannou. Having Ngannou and Wilder box would be a big event that the Saudis would possibly be interested in hosting. Having Wilder step into the cage would be just as big of a deal. Boxers hardly ever cross over in fear of looking like James Toney. It’s bound to happen with a big name soon. Why not Ngannou vs. Wilder?

The MMA option: PFL’s heavyweight champion

If Ngannou is keen on returning to mixed martial arts, he may have the PFL heavyweight champion in his sights. Currently, PFL is to have their tournament championships between Renan Ferreira and Denis Goltsov for the heavyweight title on November 24th.

Who he fights will not particularly matter. It’s determinant on the outcome of the fight and one would not be crazy to believe that Francis Ngannou, the former UFC champion who left with the belt, could step in and challenge the champion immediately.

With “The Predator” having a $2 million minimum for his opponents in PFL, he would clearly make far north of that. As Bloody Elbow earlier reported, Ngannou was estimated to make “at least $18 million” this weekend, and he will want more of that pie next in MMA, with a purse that’ll probably be among the biggest in the sport’s history.

In addition to that, Francis Ngannou owns equity in PFL. With his newfound level of fame, bringing his talents to the PFL cage would boost that equity. While staying in boxing will likely be by far the much more lucrative option, MMA can still be a play for the long term and a good decision financially either way.

May 15, 2023, Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA, United States: Los Angeles, CA - May 16: Francis Ngannou behind the scenes of his promotional video workout at Professional Fighters League - Francis Ngannou workout at Unbreakable Performance Center on May 15, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA Los Angeles, CA United States - ZUMAp175 20230515_zsa_p175_017
Louis Grasse / ZUMA Wire, IMAGO

The odd option: Anthony Joshua

Anthony Joshua is in a weird situation. He has this thing where he wants to be compared to Tyson Fury but doesn’t particularity want to fight him or anyone else scary. The only reason he fought Usyk was because Usyk became the WBO’s mandatory challenger. Then he had a rematch clause he had to take.

Anthony Joshua may see Francis Ngannou as a low risk fight, despite watching him bring Tyson Fury to the brink. If Joshua sees it as a way to outshine Fury, he may take the fight. That may or may not be a good idea for Joshua but Eddie Hearn, Matchroom Boxing’s president and Joshua’s promoter, loves a good money fight and he is already posturing to book this fight.

The Joshua fight would be big for Francis Ngannou. “AJ” packs out the O2 Arena’s 20,000 capacity every time he fights there. The ticket sales would be massive and the pay per views would be as well.

This one is more of a long shot because of Joshua’s recent aversion to risk. After losing to Andy Ruiz in 2019, Joshua has seemingly regressed as a boxer and taken the easy fights like Robert Helenius.

Anthony Joshua v Robert Helenius Weigh-In, London, UK - 11 Aug 2023 Anthony Joshua during the pre-match Anthony Joshua v Robert Helenius weigh-in at Westfield, Hammersmith & Fulham, London on Friday 11th August 2023 London Westfield Hammersmith & Fulham GBR Copyright: xJamesxFearn PPAUKx PPA-043914
James Fearn, PPAUK, IMAGO

Ngannou also has a champion’s mindset so don’t count out Zhilei Zhang who has the WBO Interim World Heavyweight title. Daniel Dubois is another name that could be thrown around as well as Joe Joyce in the boxing world. Should the PFL finally buy Bellator as has been the rumor for nearly a year, Ryan Bader and Linton Vassell could be options as well, the champion and number one contender for Bellator.

For context, as we previously reported, Ngannou only received around $3.5 million for his entire seven-year tenure with the UFC, with all the other discretionary and performance bonuses, and PPV cut included. The future seems bright for Ngannou either way, as he will likely be able to clear that total again on his next fight, regardless of where he decides to fight.

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Blaine Henry
Blaine Henry

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