Francis Ngannou’s stunning knockdown and close split decision loss to Tyson Fury might have opened the doors for more UFC fighters to try their hand at boxing. Before the bout, it was widely seen as an empty, pointless cash-in that would inevitability end with Ngannou’s abject humiliation in the ring.
Ngannou’s business advisor Marquel Martin spoke to Ariel Helwani about the pre-fight dynamic and said it felt like the MMA world was against Francis going into the Fury bout. Seemingly because most fighters, fans and pundits bought Dana White’s arguments about the meaninglessness of the match and the certainty that Ngannou would be humbled in the ring.
Well, that didn’t happen.
Ngannou’s shocking success has clearly opened the door for more MMA vs boxing crossover matches. UFC champs like Sean Strickland and Sean O’Malley are already talking about or being talked about as potential crossover boxing competitors.
The big problem will be convincing UFC bosses.
Dan Hardy sees Dana White as major road block for UFC fighters
One-time UFC title contender and long-time UFC commentator Dan Hardy has a long history with Dana White and the UFC. For many years, Hardy seemed to stay on the boss’s good side. After illness forced him out of the Octagon in 2013, he worked for the organization on the other side of the microphone.
Past problems aside, however, it’s hard to deny Hardy’s logic here, most notably that Dana White seems like a man who absolutely does not want to see his start attractions in the boxing ring.
“We got the [Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor] thing and that was a one-off,” Hardy said in a recent MMA Hour interview (transcript via MMA Fighting). “I do feel like the UFC in particular like Dana’s a boxing fan. I think he was intrigued by that because he felt Conor was something quite special and he might be able to just do something as well as obviously they made a bunch of cash out of it.
“If you look at somebody like a Sean O’Malley or a Jon Jones, he doesn’t want to take that risk. You remember when he took Chuck Liddell over to PRIDE and ‘Rampage’ [Quinton Jackson] beat him up, that kind of burned him, I feel. He’s been very, very reluctant to risk breaking his toys in other people’s promotions. I think he’s going to do everything he can to stop people from doing it.”
The Chuck Liddell fiasco
Dana White wasn’t always so opposed to cross-promotion. In fact, Dana White once tried a partnership with Pride FC when it was not only the biggest and most important MMA promoter in Japan but also globally. Things did not go well
Dana personally accompanied then top UFC light heavyweight contender Chuck Liddell over to Japan to compete in the middleweight grand prix.
“Really, this whole thing started between me and Mr. Sakakibara, the president of Pride,” White stated in a 2003 interview leading up to the 2003 PRIDE Grand Prix. “He started trash-talking the UFC a little bit and then I said ‘Let’s talk about some real issues like Chuck Liddell knocking out Wanderlei Silva.’ That’s a fight I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but Pride would never do it.
“They ended up coming back saying ‘If he wants to fight Silva so bad, why don’t you put him in our eight-man tournament?’ If there’s any guy I would put in an eight-man tournament, it’s Chuck Liddell. Because I’m kind of an old-school kind of guy and I like real fighters. Chuck Liddell is a real fighter. There’s no BS with him. He likes to fight. He’ll fight anybody, anywhere, anytime. He’s definitely one of the best.”
Things started off promisingly for the Iceman when he knocked out Alistair Overeem in the quarterfinals. But then he ran into the man who would one day end his UFC title reign, Rampage Jackson. Jackson beat Chuck badly enough that Liddell’s corner had to throw in the towel between rounds.
That was the last time Dana White ever willingly sent a UFC fighter to another promotion.
Rampage Jackson on the UFC’s attitude
“Dana White really wanted me because I was the last guy Chuck (Liddell) wanted to get his revenge on,” Jackson explained when speaking to Bleacher Report. “Everybody was really nice to me, I’m telling you when I beat up Marvin Eastman, everybody, people behind the scenes at the UFC they’re really like a big family.
“Chuck was part of the family. They was all really nice to me, like a hog going to the slaughter, and then after I beat Chuck right away like 90 percent of them hated my guts. They didn’t talk to me no more, they didn’t smile at me when I came back there, it made me feel awkward.”
Join the new Bloody Elbow
Our Substack is where we feature the work of writers like Zach Arnold, John Nash and Connor Reubusch. We’re fighting for the sport, the fighters and the fans. Please help us by subscribing today.
About the author