Randy Couture expects Francis Ngannou to return to MMA even if he beats Anthony Joshua

Francis Ngannou already captured boxing’s attention when he knocked down linear heavyweight champ Tyson Fury and nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport. Now he’ll attempt to trump that performance with his fight against Anthony Joshua, but does a win effectively doom any chance of an MMA return?

UFC Hall of Famer and current PFL commentator Randy Couture doesn’t think so.

Despite the massive paydays Ngannou is earning in boxing and the potential for a future rematch with Fury, especially if Ngannou gets past Joshua on March 8, Couture still believes the former UFC heavyweight champion will return to MMA to fulfill his obligation to the PFL.

“I don’t think he’s going to walk away from this sport,” Couture told MMA Fighting. “His roots are here. This is what made him the name that he is, and the fact that he’s getting these boxing matches is because of what he did in MMA. I don’t think he’s going to walk away from this sport.”

Ngannou hasn’t competed in MMA since defeating Ciryl Gane in what ultimately served as his UFC swan song back in January 2022. Considering his boxing schedule, there’s a chance Ngannou’s potential PFL debut may not take place until sometime in late 2024 or even early 2025, which would put “The Predator” at three years away from the sport.

He also turns 38 years old in September, which can’t be ignored.

Still, Couture feels like Ngannou will figure out a way to come back to MMA again, even if there’s no exact timetable as to when that might happen.

“I think he’s going to have to juggle a little bit,” Couture said. “I think the PFL is certainly willing to work with him in that regard, but I don’t see him walking away from MMA.”

A huge part of the reason that Ngannou split with the UFC came down to the ability to control more of his career, especially with opportunities like what he’s found in boxing.

PFL had no problems making those concessions to sign Ngannou, and company co-founder Donn Davis has spoken often about backing the former UFC champ as he continues seeking out marquee fights like his matchups against Fury and Joshua.

Even if all that means a delay in Ngannou finally competing in PFL, Couture knows that Ngannou’s promotion supports him.

“I like from day one, Pete [Murray] and Donn’s approach, we’re different,” Couture explained. “We don’t have to compete with the UFC. We’re that different. Obviously now we’re launching the pay-per-view model that at least puts us in the same category with what the UFC is doing, but they’ve never poked the bear. It’s never been about us or them. There’s plenty of room in the marketplace for both of us and that’s been their approach all along, and I love that. I don’t think that’s going to change.

“There’s no ego in that. It’s about the fighters for a change instead of the three letters that represent that promotion.”

As far as potential opposition, Ngannou didn’t really have a clear cut contender to catch his attention until PFL champion Renan Ferreira crushed Bellator champion Ryan Bader in 21 seconds at the first ever PFL vs. Bellator card. Now Couture sees that as the fight to make.

“That makes perfect sense to me,” Couture said. “I know [Ngannou is] enamored with being able to box, it’s been a dream of his for a long, long time, but I don’t think he’s walking away from MMA and the one that brought him to the dance in the first place. I think it’s logical that [Ferreira] would be the one to get the shot at Francis.”

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