Written By Daniel Yanofsky
Over the past few months, there have been rumblings of a clash between UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou and WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury. All of this talk has bubbled up while Ngannou is ready to defend his title against Ciryl Gane on Jan. 22 at UFC 270.
So how would Ngannou, a power puncher, fare in the boxing world?
Former trainer Fernand Lopez, who's engaged in a bitter rivalry with Ngannou since the latter left MMA Factory, gave his thoughts on Ngannou’s interest in being a two-way combat sports star.
While Ngannou showed an interest in boxing when he was younger, he has not stepped inside a ring. The move may make sense to a degree, but Lopez believes Ngannou’s inexperience would cost him.
“I think the fight makes sense for Francis because he thinks he can cash out,” Lopez said. “It would take at least three years for Francis Ngannou to be competitive from a boxing standpoint with Tyson Fury, and I mean three years only dedicated to boxing. I’m not sure Francis can ever challenge the stamina or endurance of Tyson Fury. All he can do is have a high defense; be elusive, close footwork, change direction.”
“Realistically he would have to stop everything else and probably do nothing else for three years, only boxing. No grappling, nothing else. The way that his body and muscles are built, it will not allow him to keep throwing punches after the third round. … I don’t see how he can win the match, this is an opportunity for him to cash out.”
Ngannou started boxing at 22 and at 26, wanted to pursue a career in it. While in Paris, he met Lopez, who swayed him into joining the world of MMA. From 2013-18, Ngannou was a member of MMA Factory, knocking opponents out with ease. He joined the UFC in 2015 and won six in a row, but lost to Stipe Miocic for the UFC heavyweight title in January 2018. He left MMA Factory for Xtreme Couture and since November 2018, has won five in a row, including the UFC heavyweight title back in March.
Fury (31-0-1) has been boxing professionally since 2008 and has been competing since around 2006. The lineal champion won the gold medal in the 2008 English National Championships. The "Gypsy King" beat Deontay Wilder in 2020 to win the WBC heavyweight title and made about $54 million in 2021. Outside of Lopez, Ngannou has had a stand-off with the UFC regarding his contract. A potential fight with Jon Jones was scrapped based on money, and Ngannou, 35, is looking to find the best deal for him, especially as a champion. Lopez believes the amount of money he can make would be depleted with a move to boxing, along with the years of skills he would need to learn to step inside a ring.
“I’m not sure if you’re a UFC fighter it’s worth letting it all go and have three years of steady boxing training - how would you live your life, what would be your income? And after three years you may be competitive enough to stand there and keep throwing punches,” Lopez said.
“We are not expecting anything brilliant, Francis is not a boxer. You train a lot to be a boxer. Boxing needs dedication, boxing needs sacrifice, you need years and years to train. So we know the outcome of that fight. The question is how much Francis Ngannou can make a lot of money, because he only has one shot. Objectively speaking, he cannot think about having a boxing career because his boxing skill will not be enough for him to become a boxer.”
Ngannou and Lopez have been feuding since the figher left MMA Factory. Part of the reason is that Ngannou believes Lopez wanted the spotlight over him, which has resulted in Lopez questioning his ability. Another factor is sparring footage of Ngannou and Gane that the former believes was shared to make him look bad.
Ngannou will face a former teammate in Gane inside the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. That is the last fight on his current deal with the UFC. Could talks about a Fury fight along with contract disputes be a distraction leading up to the title fight? According to Lopez, a lot is on the line for Ngannou heading into the bout.
“Francis Ngannou wants to move over to boxing but that can only happen if he’s the champ," said Lopez. "If he leaves the UFC and he’s not the champion, no matter which company he wants to go to, it won’t look good. We have to keep that in mind.”
The quotes in this article first appeared on the Betway US blog