The big fight last weekend didn’t come from the UFC, but it did come from a former UFC star. Francis Ngannou set the boxing and MMA worlds on fire with a terrific 10-round performance against WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury. The Xtreme Couture talent may not have won his debut in the ring, but a big knockdown and an ability to stay competitive in every round had noted figures from both the MMA and boxing worlds singing his praises.
For those that feel this may be the start of something big, for the Cameroonian-born Frenchman, there is a note of caution to be sounded.
Dave Meltzer reports Tyson Fury vs. Francis Ngannou PPV sales ‘were terrible’
It never really felt like Tyson Fury vs. Francis Ngannou was going to be a major PPV hit (or that it was ever even meant to be). Aired live from Saudi Arabia, the card took place mid-day on a Saturday, well outside the normal PPV hours. With the event seemingly already paid for by Saudi investment, the necessity of turning a big profit through individual buyers was almost certainly not as big a priority as it would have been for other similar events held in the UK or US. That said, maybe a couple hundred thousand buys would have been a reasonable target?
From the sound of things, Tyson Fury vs. Francis Ngannou didn’t even come close.
“I will have the exact numbers tomorrow, but they were terrible,” longtime pro wrestling & combat sports journalist Dave Meltzer said on a recent Observer Radio segment (h/t Fight Ghost on Twitter). “Way below an AEW PPV. Possibly 10k for TV orders. I will have the streaming tomorrow. It was nothing close to Canelo or Diaz-Paul buys.”
For reference, AEW has had six PPV events in 2023. Of those, three have had publicly disclosed buy-rate estimates, each falling somewhere between 100-150,000 buys. As for the other events mentioned? Canelo vs. Charlo was estimated to be somewhere in the 650-700,000 range, while Diaz vs. Paul came in at an estimated 450,000.
Fury vs. Ngannou aired on ESPN+ in the US and TNT Sports Box Office in the UK, so it should be noted, that (as the largest PPV market out there) the US was pretty much entirely bound to streaming platforms. Not a major surprise that TV sales would be way down for the event.
Anthony Joshua has no interest in fighting Ngannou
Shortly after his moral victory over Tyson Fury, noted UK boxing promoter Eddie Hearn couldn’t have sounded more bullish on the idea of a fight between Francis Ngannou and heavyweight star Anthony Joshua.
“AJ wants to fight in December or January. We have also spoken very briefly to the Ngannou camp to say we’d be willing to look at that fight,” Hearn told talkSPORT after Ngannou/Fury. “I love that fight in Africa, the ‘Rumble in the Jungle 2’ out there would be incredible between two heavyweight giants.”
A few days later, however, and that tune had changed. Perhaps it’s the rumblings about low buy rates, or perhaps it’s just that—as Hearn mentioned in that same talkSPORT interview—Joshua is only interested in regaining a title belt at the moment, but when Hearn spoke to reporters again, it was to say he’d had a conversation with the 34-year-old, and that’s not a fight he’s interested in taking.
“[Ngannou] came to me because he wanted to fight Anthony Joshua. I went to straight to AJ and said, ‘look, it is a bit of a left-field one’,” Hearn revealed. “Don’t forget, Anthony Joshua is not a world champion, didn’t have a shot at the world championship, so I said what do you think? And he said ‘absolutely no interest at all, I want to try become world heavyweight champion again, I’ve got no interest in fighting Francis Ngannou’.”
For the moment, oddsmakers have Deontay Wilder as the favorite to be Ngannou’s next opponent in the ring. After his taxing win over the former UFC champ, Tyson Fury’s planned bout against Oleksandr Usyk had to be pushed back to February, tying him up for the forseeable future. Who knows when fans will get to see the ‘Predator’ inside the ring again, or who he’ll be facing when the day arrives?
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