Ryan Bader, Renan Ferreira expect winner of their fight to welcome Francis Ngannou to PFL

Ryan Bader and Renan Ferreira both have a lot riding on their upcoming fight at the PFL vs. Bellator card on Feb. 24.

Every win matters, of course, especially in a rare champ vs. champ fight like this one. But the stakes get even higher when you throw Francis Ngannou into the mix. The former UFC heavyweight champion signed with the PFL in free agency, and is expected to fight for the upstart MMA promotion when his boxing career subsides.

Bader and Ferreira are gunning for the chance to welcome Ngannou to the PFL after their heavyweight headliner in Saudi Arabia.

“Yeah, 100 percent [Ngannou should be next],” Bader said on Wednesday. “He’s got his boxing fight coming up, but I think it’s perfect timing. We get this done, and the winner gets that opportunity.

“Francis is coming over, former UFC champion, he just had an amazing fight with Tyson Fury. He put everybody on notice. To have the ability to go in there and prove to everybody, to go out there and get that win, that’s huge. I’m not looking past Renan, but get that done, 100 percent [he’s next].”

Bader certainly has the most impressive resume among the heavyweights vying for the chance to face Ngannou. He previously reigned as Bellator light heavyweight champion before moving up to heavyweight, where he’s still undefeated with wins over legends like Fedor Emelianenko and veterans such as Valentin Molkavsky and Cheick Kongo.

As for Ferreira, the 34-year-old Brazilian burst on the scene in the past few years after he joined the PFL and beat former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum before the contest was overturned. Overall, Ferreira has gone 6-1 with three no contests in the PFL, which includes his recent run to become the heavyweight champion during the 2023 season.

Much like his upcoming opponent, Ferreira believes a natural next step for the winner is the chance to face Ngannou in the PFL.

“Absolutely, I feel like it’s undeniable,” he said. “If everything goes as planned, after Feb. 24, Francis is the name. That being said, I’ll be ready to go however he wants to do it. If he wants to do it in MMA, boxing, we’ll be ready.”

For all the ways that Ngannou looms over their fight, Bader and Ferreira both paid respect to the other and acknowledged a showdown with “The Predator” won’t happen without a win in February.

Bader, who will give up a significant amount of size to the 6-foot-8 giant opposing him, promises Ferreira has his full attention.

“I have 40 some fights, he has quite a bit less,” Bader said of Ferreira. “I’ve been in this game, I’ve stood across from everybody, legends in the sport. Champions, former champions. I’ve been in there, I’ve been fighting five-round fights since I can remember. I’m proven in that aspect.

“He’s an amazing fighter. He’s huge. He’s fun to watch, and it’s one of those challenges where I’m going to have to go in there and dictate what I do. I just feel like I have more tools. At the same point, he’s a giant man in there swinging hard. You never know what happens.”

After coming up short in two previous PFL seasons, Ferreira finally broke through with his tournament win in 2023, and he’s anxious to build on that in 2024. That starts with the fight against Bader and then perhaps he’ll be able to turn his attention toward Ngannou.

“It’s a special moment for the fans,” Ferreira said. “It’s a special moment for the sport. I feel honored to be in this position as the main event to fight against a guy with the credentials like Ryan Bader has.

“Just excited to get there. You guys know my fight style, always pressing the action, moving forward. So I’m excited to put on a great show.”

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