Francis Ngannou isn’t going to choose between boxing and MMA, he’s going to do both.
Saturday evening, Ngannou delivered one of the most impressive combat sports performances of the past decade, going toe-to-to with undefeated heavyweight champion Tyson Fury in his boxing debut. Though Ngannou ultimately lost a contentious split decision on the judges’ scorecards, “The Predator” vastly exceeded expectations, even dropping Fury in the third round. Ngannou’s surprising performance immediately led to speculation that he will now transition into boxing full-time, where the biggest paydays and matchups await him, but the PFL star says he’s not done with MMA just yet.
“Combination. I can do both. Nothing is stopping me from doing both,” Ngannou told ESPN after the fight. “If I have the skill for both of them, why not? As for right now, I have a deal with PFL and I’m intending to fight MMA again. I love it. I’m more comfortable. I still love it. I might do some MMA fights, but I’m still going to do boxing. I never intended to just step over and do one fight and just go out. That wasn’t the plan at all, never. The plan is still the same.”
At this point, who would doubt him? From making his way from Cameroon to France as a young man, to taking up MMA and becoming UFC heavyweight champion, to standing his ground against the UFC and striking out on his own, to now coming within a single round of defeating Tyson Fury in his boxing debut, Ngannou has made a habit of silencing his doubters.
And even though he ultimately lost on the judges’ scorecards, Ngannou says that both he and Fury know who really won that fight.
“If he’s being honest, he would say I won that fight,” Ngannou said. “I won that fight. There is not a question about it. And even before getting here, I knew if this fights goes to decision, I’m not winning. Not because I didn’t do good, because I’m the new guy in the house. I come here and I just want to kick into people’s business.
“There’s a structured business out there and you need to do a lot to destroy it. That’s why it would be an upset. I wasn’t expecting to win like that in a decision. But it is what it is. I do my job. I know I did everything I could have done. I did my best. Maybe next time I should just do better to convince people.”
“I think it’s a shame for boxing though,” Ngannou later added on his YouTube channel “I think it’s a shame for this sport. And those judges or whoever, they should be sanctioned. Again, I want to understand why those judges judge like that, because for me, to be honest, I don’t care that much about that decision, but I think those kinds of decisions mess up a lot of people’s careers.”
Whether there will be a next time for Fury and Ngannou remains to be seen. There was no rematch clause put in place for this fight and Fury already has his sights set on a unification clash with Oleksandr Usyk. That matchup was originally planned for December, but in light of Fury’s difficulties against Ngannou, it has reportedly already been pushed back into 2024.
Similarly, Ngannou was planning to return to MMA and make his PFL debut in early 2024, but his success on Saturday night has potentially changed that plan somewhat, opening up more opportunities for lineal heavyweight champion.
“I’m going to fight sometime in February or March,” Ngannou said. “Maybe in the cage or in the ring, but I’m going to fight. I already basically have both, and we are working on what’s going to work better.”
Given how well he did against Fury, if Ngannou does ultimately go back to the boxing ring first, he’s taking a lot of confidence with him into his next fight.
“I came here to win,” Ngannou said. “I’m going back without that victory, which is not what I was looking for. I was really looking forward to winning this fight. But I did learn a lot tonight about the sport. This is really my first time to fight and to do 10-round boxing match, straight boxing. I told myself that I didn’t do bad against the No. 1 heavyweight in the world, so I’ve just to go back and focus on that, and use that experience to work on it and get prepared for the next time. I think this just gets me even more excited and hungry to prove. I was wounded, but I realize I can bite.”