Francis Ngannou can do whatever he wants, so says the PFL.
On Saturday, Ngannou shocked the world when he went toe-to-toe with Tyson Fury in their 10-round boxing match in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, even dropping the heavyweight champion in the third round. In the end, Ngannou still came up short on the judges’ scorecards, losing a contentious split decision, but he earned an immense amount of respect for his performance, and he set himself up for some more boxing superfights.
While some might think a return to boxing would upset Ngannou’s MMA promoters, PFL founder Donn Davis says his promotion is fully behind whatever Ngannou decides.
“From the very beginning, why Francis and the PFL got our deal done in two days, is we wanted the best thing for Francis Ngannou,” Davis said on The MMA Hour. “In business, when you do the best thing by your partners, it tends to be the best thing for your business. That Jerry MacGuire, ‘Help me help you,’ it tends to work out. One out of 10 times, your partner is a bad partner and it’s bad for you. In my 35 years, nine out of 10 times, if you’re a good partner, the partner is a good partner to you. I think Francis — [we] wanted the best for him, we support that, and we think the best will work out for the PFL because of that.”
Ngannou signed a lucrative partnership with PFL earlier this year prior to booking his boxing match against Fury. Ngannou was expected to make his PFL debut sometime in early 2024, however the close loss to Fury may have shaken things up. Following the fight, Ngannou said he is weighing options for his next bout, saying that he wants to do both MMA and boxing moving forward. But Davis has a third option to throw into the mix as well.
“Francis is making plans,” Davis said. “I heard him on your show saying he was going to make decisions in the next two weeks. We know what he’s working on. I think there is a path that could go one of two ways. I think there’s a boxing path for him next, and I think there’s a mixed fight for him next, that will look a little different. It will go against somebody, it might be under mixed rules.
“I think the opponents in pure MMA are not that interesting right now. We’re just like the fans, we’re just like the fighters. We’re not like the other companies. ‘Let’s just do it because they’re our guys!’ There’s only one guy in MMA who is interesting right now for Francis Ngannou: Jon Jones. One guy. Everybody says, what about Stipe? Maybe. Give him a half a point — 1.5 guys, who are compelling. I don’t want to say who could put on a good fight for him. There are three or four other guys who could put on a competitive fight for Francis. I’m not talking about a competitive fight, I’m saying compelling — 1.5 guys in MMA, in the world! And one is hurt for the next nine months, and the other one is under contract.
“We’re realists. So what is the best fight for our fighter, Francis Ngannou, his career, and fighting fans? That’s the fight we should make, and that’s the fight we’re going to be partners to make. So will he fight in MMA in 2024? Yes, he will. Will that be his next fight? I don’t know.”
While there are a number of potential opponents for Ngannou in boxing, including a rematch with Fury or a superfight with Anthony Joshua, one name appears to be gaining traction for a possible bout: Deontay Wilder. Ngannou revealed on The MMA Hour that Wilder has allegedly been training MMA for some time now, and Wilder has previously mentioned an openness to trying his hand at cage-fighting. But if he had his druthers, Davis would like to see the two of them meet up in the smart cage on more even grounds.
“I think it would be fantastic, because I think he already proved against Tyson Fury what he has to prove for now,” Davis said of Ngannou fighting Wilder. “I think he’ll get back to that. … But what would I think would be fascinating? Deontay Wilder in a mixed rules fight. I always say, what do I want to see? I know a lot about boxing and a lot about MMA, but I’m not a savant. I’m not a deep, deep, deep insider. So I like to test, what do I think millions of people would love to see? I think that’s the most interesting thing we could all see.”
While Davis wouldn’t get into specifics, he did allow that, to his knowledge, Wilder is open to the idea, but that the matchup will simply come down to “availability, money, and details.” Davis believes that all of that is achievable though and so, if he had to make a prediction for what comes next for Francis Ngannou, he says it’s this fight.
“I think Francis does Deontay Wilder, and I think it is a wild fight,” Davis concluded. “Because what you know and what I know, is who Francis is. But now the rest of the world knows what he is, and he is a global superstar. And everyone is going to see that and not miss it. No one is going to sleep on him this time.”