Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images
Francis Ngannou remains confident that he is going to fight with Tyson Fury, and when he does, he plans to shock the world.
This past weekend, Fury kept his undefeated professional boxing record alive with a sensational sixth-round knockout of Dillian Whyte at Wembley Stadium in England. Following the bout, Fury doubled down on his declaration that he would be retiring from professional boxing, but allowed that he was still interested in an exhibition bout with Ngannou, even bringing Ngannou into the ring with him to promote a future “clash of the titans.” It was something Ngannou, who was sitting ringside at the event, was not anticipating, but something he believes shows just how serious both men are about making the superfight happen.
“I was a little surprised to be honest,” Ngannou told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “I didn’t know that was what he was going to do. I thought he was going to maybe say something but not bring me in the ring…
“I don’t know how close is it but it’s very clear that this fight is gonna happen because both of us want this fight. We respect each other as you can see. The guy just earned the moment, he was the man of the night, he could have just stood there and been cocky and like, ‘Oh, I’m this, I’m that,’ but he called me into the ring and spoke very respectfully as a champion. And I respect him as well. So I think it’s gonna happen. It’s just a matter of our promotions, the contract situation and everything, but we’re gonna solve this all at some point, probably next year, and this fight is going to happen.”
Ngannou and Fury have been angling for a superfight with one another for months now, with Ngannou’s contract situation remaining as the last big impediment to such a match taking place. Thus far, the UFC has seemed cool to the idea of allowing Ngannou to box while still competing in the organization, unfortunately for them, the ball is mostly in Ngannou’s court. Ngannou fought out his UFC contract in January, beating Ciryl Gane at UFC 270 to retain his heavyweight title, and though the win activated the champion’s clause in his contract, come December, the heavyweight champion will be free to pursue whatever interests he has. While he waits, Ngannou has made it clear that he’d prefer to re-sign with the UFC and have them take part in the promotion of the bout, but if they refuse, ultimately, there isn’t anything the UFC can do to stop him from fighting Fury.
“My contract situation is not a roadblock because either way, my contract situation will not stop me from fighting,” Ngannou said. “So I think it’s pretty easy [to make the fight]. Tyson Fury contract situation as well is coming up soon, therefore, there’s nothing that can hold us from doing it.”
Ngannou went on to say that it was about a “70 percent” chance that Fury will be his next fight, but making the fight happen and winning the fight are two entirely different things. Though a number of “hybrid” concepts have been pitched for the fight, including competing in MMA gloves instead of boxing gloves or competing in a cage instead of a ring, ultimately, the fight would take place primarily under a boxing rule set, which favors Fury. And, as even Ngannou admits, Fury’s performance against Whyte shows that “The Gypsy King” appears to still be getting better.
“Amazing performance,” Ngannou said of Fury’s fight with Whyte. “With the fight going on, everyone always has a chance, but to get to the point that he finished in that way, very clear and sneaky, just make a statement on its own. He doesn’t have to introduce himself to anybody, they all know who Tyson is, but that uppercut was so nice you’re kind of like, ‘Okay, that is one more thing that I have to be careful in the future.’ [Laughs]. But I think I can take it and I can give it back…
“It’s been two years that I’ve been watching Tyson very closely, observing his style, how he boxes, and what makes it better. I think over the past two years I have collected a lot data on Tyson that could potentially help me down the road.”
Many disagree with him though. One of the prevailing sentiments against Ngannou facing Fury is the perceived one-sidedness of the bout. Oddsmakers opened the line for a prospective fight between the two heavyweights at -600 in favor of Fury, and those odds have since ballooned to put Fury at a -1500 favorite, implying nearly a 94% win probability. But for Ngannou, the odds — and anyone who thinks he can’t do it — are wrong.
“Then they don’t know me. That’s even a good sign, because I prevail the most when I am an underdog,” Ngannou said. “I’ve heard that so many times in my life, yet I’m here. Even in my last fight, I heard that stuff, but I’m here. So until it happens, nobody can really know. Everybody can speculate but it will always be just speculation and opinion. The real fight is the way that we give a result. That’s the only moment than anybody can be sure of anything..
“It can end either way. If somebody doubts it can end either way, then he’s out of his mind. But in my perspective, how I see it, how I want it to be, and how I’m going to be working on it, is to be the best night for me and a bad night for Tyson. Not easy, but possible. 100 percent I believe I can knock him out. As I said, it’s not easy, but possible.”