Francis Ngannou just put UFC fighters on notice. Over the years we’ve seen a whole host of top tier talents inside the Octagon call for their chance in the boxing ring, but most of those dreams have washed out to nothing.
For years, Anderson Silva talked about boxing Roy Jones Jr, while talents like Stipe Miocic, Cain Velasqeuz, and Kamaru Usman have all thrown their name into the hat as fighters who might like to someday strap on a bigger set of gloves. To Conor McGregor’s credit, he actually made the move happen while still in the prime of his career—forcing the UFC to co-promote a bout against Floyd Mayweather.
For others, a step into the ring has been left as a late career gimmick, or a pipe dream never pursued. After Ngannou’s success on Saturday, the path seems much clearer. Fighters can go out and try to get the fights they want with or without the UFC, or they can face the facts that it’s just not something they want that badly.
UFC champ Sean O’Malley gets called out by Shakur Stevenson
Shakur Stevenson, a 2016 silver medalist in the Olympics, wass widely recognized as the best super featherweight (130 pounds) boxer in the world before moving up to lightweight (135 pounds) in 2023. The 26-year-old is 20-0 as a pro with 10 KOs and a proven track record as a ratings draw on TV.
In the aftermath of Francis Ngannou’s shocking split decision loss (and clear moral victory) against heavyweight boxing champ Tyson Fury, Stevenson must have heard the UFC bantamweight champ Sean O’Malley wants to box.
“I say if they feel that way, give it a try,” Stevenson told TMZ in a recent interview. “I think that you got some MMA guys that want to come get in the ring with somebody like me, I would love the opportunity to beat up an MMA guy and show them that there’s real levels to it.”
“Tell [Sean O’Malley] we can get it in,” Stevenson continued. “I’m ready to lock in with him… It’s levels to this sh*t. If he wants to come try his hand, I’ll beat the sh*t out of him.”
Sean O’Malley may not want to box that bad
As fun as it is to talk about these crossover boxing bouts, Sean O’Malley is under UFC contract and would have to negotiate any boxing deal with the promotion. A promotion that is infamously unwilling to co-promote.
Apparently, that’s a conversation O’Malley has tried to get started, but from the sound of things, it hasn’t gone well. That’s according to the man himself, who spoke about going to the UFC with the idea on a recent episode of his podcast.
“The thing about Devin Haney is like, I’m not trying to throw shade or anything but I’ve legit literally never watched him box one fight ever,” O’Malley said (transcript via MMA Fighting). “I didn’t even really know who he was until more recent — like him, Gervonta, there’s a guy like named Shakur [Stevenson].”
“I talked to UFC about potential boxing fights someday and they’re like, ‘No one knows Devin Haney. There’s zero percent chance that ever happens,’” O’Malley said. “He’s just not a star and no one knows him. No one knows between him and Gervonta Davis, you go ask some random person which ones which they’d be like [I don’t know].”
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like O’Mally is yet another MMA fighter whose boxing career is just a pipe dream
After O’Malley’s title fight win against Aljamain Sterling at UFC 292, I wrote about what’s likely next for the champ:
“O’Malley expressed interest in avenging his one pro loss, which was against Marlon Vera. Earlier in the night Vera picked up a win against Pedro Munhoz and remains one of the top-ranked bantamweights. However, I don’t think a title shot is the best option for him next, even if he has a win over O’Malley.
“I’d prefer to see O’Malley face Merab Dvalishvili next instead. Listen, I know the story of O’Malley avenging his singular defeat and being able to call himself, like, sort of undefeated again is good, but Dvalishvili simply deserves it more.
“Dvalishvili hasn’t lost since 2018. As the challenges have become more serious in recent years, his performances have remained solid. He finished Marlon Moraes in 2021. The following year, he got a win over Jose Aldo. And he went a whole five rounds against Petr Yan in March, beating him via unanimous decision in the end.
“Plus, Dvalishvili is actually a pretty good story to sell too. Sterling is his teammate. They have such a close bond that Sterling was going to duck out of the division after Saturday so that Dvalishvili would get a shot (which, by the way, is so heartwarming?). And now that Sterling lost the belt, it’s a chance for Dvalishvili to get revenge. That’s a pretty solid story too.”
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