Will Francis Ngannou Ever Return to MMA?

When is a contract, not a contract?

Francis Ngannou put pen to paper on an exclusive deal to fight with the PFL in May 2023, and yet he hasn’t been seen near a cage since.

An intention to try his hand at professional boxing – something that his previous deal with UFC wouldn’t allow – has long been on the Cameroon ace’s to-do list, and he took to the sweet science like a duck to water in his debut fight against Tyson Fury late last year.

That PFL contract permits Ngannou to ride out the wave of his blossoming boxing career, so at the age of 37 is it possible we’ll never see The Predator stalking an opponent in MMA ever again?

World Domination

Ngannou has long been the kind of guy that seeks out challenges in his fighting career.

The possibility of becoming a boxing world champion very much fits the bill – and it’s a scenario that’s not as outlandish as it sounds.

The February bout between Fury and Oleksandr Usyk will crown an undisputed heavyweight champion, with the betting on Fury vs Usyk favoring the Brit at odds of -138 compared to the Ukrainian’s +110.

The Paddy Power boxing lines, incidentally, make Ngannou a +350 underdog when he straps on the big gloves next against Anthony Joshua on March 8th – defeat there may well end the 37-year-old’s boxing ambitions.

That said, if both he and Fury lose, there is a possibility that Ngannou and the Gypsy King may have a rematch in Saudi Arabia – potentially as some kind of boxing-MMA hybrid-style contest, which would be a world first.

If Ngannou defeats Joshua, he will likely box again in the summer – perhaps in an eliminator clash for the WBC belt.

Either way, it appears as though there are a few ways in which Ngannou will be engaged with boxing for much of 2024 – meaning that his roadmap back to MMA may take until next year to unfold.

It’s thought that the 37-year-old’s PFL contract will earn him around $10 million a fight. When he took on Fury, Ngannou banked an estimated $25 million. You don’t need a calculator to see why his head has been turned by the riches on offer in the sweet science.

A Worthy Adversary

It would take all sorts of contractual shenanigans for a dream MMA scrap between Ngannou and Jon Jones to unfold – indeed, it would require ‘Bones’ to walk away from his UFC deal, which at the time of writing sees the 36-year-old just one fight into an eight-bout agreement. His long-term injury will only delay that timeline further.

The challenge for Ngannou now is finding worthy opponents at the heavyweight limit in PFL, whose buyout of Bellator at least increases the talent pool further. The problem is finding an adversary that is big box office fare – that, it has to be said, will be the greatest challenge facing those involved.

A fight with the winner of the PFL-Bellator contest between Renan Ferreira and Ryan Bader could be sold under the guise of a ‘best vs the best’ type promo, and there would be no shortage of people keen to see Ngannou in the cage once more.

But Bader, a 40-year-old with seven losses on his extensive resumé, is not the greatest of box office draws, while Ferreira – a 6ft 8in monster correctly nicknamed ‘Problema’ – has never fought for the UFC and therefore lacks the name recognition that comes with the territory.

Tempting Ngannou back onto the mat, PFL contract or no contract, is going to take some persuasion. Money talks, as we know, but a big fight needs a big-name opponent – does The Predator have one of those outside of the UFC?

Severe MMA Staff

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.