Francis Ngannou’s next opponent: the race to face the former UFC heavyweight champion, with Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte all touted as possible boxers to take on the MMA legend
- Francis Ngannou has plenty of options available if he enters the world of boxing
- Eddie Hearn spoke to the former UFC champion about taking on Anthony Joshua
- Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte have also proposed crossover fights to Ngannou
Francis Ngannou has a lot of options open to him as the former UFC champion considers who he will fight next.
Ngannou, the franchise’s most recent heavyweight champion, was released from his UFC contract last month after failing to agree a new deal.
It looks likely that the 36-year-old French-Cameroonian fighter will step across into boxing, and there are a few potential opponents he could take on.
On Thursday, it was revealed that Eddie Hearn has spoken to Ngannou about the possibility of taking on Anthony Joshua, with the boxing promoter saying: ‘He has a new ocean to navigate now, which is a lot more rocky than the world of MMA and UFC in that he’s in the Wild West of boxing.’
Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte have also been vocal in potentially squaring up with the MMA star. Here is the latest information in the race to fight Ngannou.
Former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou looks set to enter the world of boxing
Anthony Joshua’s career is at a crossroads after his back-to-back defeats to Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk.
The 33-year-old Olympic gold medalist is now looking to get himself back in the ring, and the opportunity to take on Ngannou is one that has been discussed by his promoter, Eddie Hearn.
Earlier this week, Hearn told the MMA Hour: ‘I mean, I think he should fight Joshua. These guys have a mountain to climb in terms of the challenge of fighting an elite boxer, but to go through the process of having two or three fights — one fight you might look bad because you’re learning, so the value really is the unknown.
‘What happens when two titans from the world of fight sports collide? The UFC heavyweight world champion Ngannou and the two-time world heavyweight boxing champion Joshua. The complete unknown.
‘The unknown of how good is Ngannou? We know he punches extremely hard, if he lands one on Joshua, is it the greatest upset of all time? Or will AJ completely steamroll him and you’ll see Ngannou get knocked out? That’s the attraction of that fight, the unknown.’
Sportsmail previously reported that, despite not being a self-confessed MMA fan, Hearn said he was ‘captivated’ by Ngannou’s achievements in the Octagon.
There is also the appeal of the financial draw, which would benefit both parties.
However, any potential match-up between AJ and Ngannou may have to be put on the back-burner for a little while, following news that Joshua is set to face American Jermaine Franklin at the O2 Arena in London on April 1.
Anthony Joshua has not fought since losing back-to-back fights against Oleksandr Usyk
Eddie Hearn believes Anthony Joshua should be Francis Ngannou’s first opponent in the ring
AJ has not won a bout since defeating Kubrat Pulev at Wembley Arena in December 2020, which took his professional record to 24-1, before the two Usyk losses in September 2021 and August 2022.
Hearn said: ‘The Anthony Joshua fight is probably among the biggest fights that can be made in any sport. Obviously the Tyson Fury fight is there for him as well.’
Tyson Fury has claimed he wants to fight Ngannou in a cage under boxing rules, as a potential crossover between the two contrasting combat worlds.
Fury told Seconds Out: ‘Francis Ngannou, I know you’re out contract with the UFC. You want to earn some big boy money come see the Gypsy King and let’s do a big, big fight for the baddest M.F. on the planet.
‘Let’s kick it up spicy in a cage, four-ounce gloves, on the Queensberry [boxing rules], and let’s have a badass referee like “Iron” Mike Tyson. Did I just sell that to the world?’
Tyson Fury called out Ngannou for a boxing cage fight, but it was not universally approved
It was not a move universally approved. Last month, UFC analyst Chael Sonnen said the unique offer was ‘the dumbest idea in sports history’.
Sonnen was not impressed with the begging nature of Fury’s request, saying: ‘I put this out there by telling you how disappointing it is to see these boxers as beggars.
‘Guys that are hot to fight to go out and get it on your own, that have physical capabilities that other men can only dream of, but they don’t know how to actually go out there and get it on their own. They just don’t know how.
‘I bring it to you because to watch Tyson Fury beg was surprising. It was surprising. I don’t want to call it disappointing, I’m real close to calling it that, but I don’t want to call it that.
‘So Tyson comes to us with perhaps the dumbest idea in sports history, perhaps. He knows it is.’
Fury has a 33-0-1 record in professional fights, most recently stepping out of so-called ‘retirement’ to knock out Derek Chisora at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in December 2022.
UFC analyst Chael Sonnen said Fury’s crossover idea was ‘the dumbest’ in the history of sports
Last month, Dillian Whyte said he wanted to take on Ngannou in his own crossover fight.
Whyte had a professional MMA win under his belt in 2008, before stepping into the world of boxing, where he has 28 professional wins from 32 fights and 18 knockouts.
Sportsmail previously reported that the Englishman was confident about his abilities to take on the French-Cameroonian fighter, if their paths were to cross.
Whyte told Sky Sports: ‘I would love to fight him. Obviously he is a champion, a dangerous guy, but I think I would bash him up. It would be a very interesting fight, because we both have got a martial arts background and he’s up for jumping in at the deep end, fighting someone like me.
Dillian Whyte is targeting a cross-code boxing match with former UFC star Francis Ngannou
‘It would get lots of interest and eyeballs. Fans around the world would be keen to see it, because he is a former UFC champion coming to face a top heavyweight like me.’
Whyte said he expects more UFC stars to be attracted to the huge pay cheques on offer in the ring as opposed to the Octagon.
‘These guys know there is more money to make in boxing than there is in MMA,’ said Whyte.
‘It would be good becoming a champion across two sports – something I wanted to do as well – so I can understand him having a massive drive to do something like that.’
Whyte’s last professional fight was a majority decision victory over Jermaine Franklin at Wembley Arena in November 2022.
Ngannou’s last UFC win came when he beat Ciryl Gane by unanimous decision at UFC 270 in January 2022, and he was released from his contract earlier in 2023.
Ngannou’s last UFC fight was a unanimous decision win over Ciryl Gane in January 2022
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