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Francis Ngannou Can Say Goodbye to MMA if He Prevails Against Anthony Joshua

Published 03/02/2024, 6:43 AM EST

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He sailed from Cameroon to France, hoping to build a career in boxing. Despite juggling odd jobs and trying to make ends meet, he harbored an ambition to succeed in the square circle. But as fate would have it, he found himself crowned a world champion as he punched his way to the top of the MMA world. However, his dream and his connection with boxing never subsided. Francis Ngannou has his opportunity now. To stand tall and bow out of the boxing ring with the fans’ applause.

‘The Predator’ has already realized half of his dream with a pro debut. The other half of the dream remains unfulfilled, and Ngannou can take the first step towards it with a win against Anthony Joshua on March 8. But there is another lingering question. What happens to his MMA career? Can the former UFC champion afford to drop the sport that made him a global sensation?

Francis Ngannou: PFL and the boxing conundrum

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Officially, the Cameroonian-French fighter signed with the PFL last year and is yet to make his debut. The PFL hierarchy will slate him to face the current heavyweight champion, Renan Ferreira, toward the end of the year. While Ngannou can seamlessly transition back to MMA and call it quits in boxing after a monumental effort in it that shook the sport to the core, the idea of it doesn’t seem quite right.

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Ngannou has exhibited flashes of brilliance in his debut bout against Tyson Fury. In addition, he had Mike Tyson in his corner, molding him into a destruction machine. Some even believe that the 37-year-old did enough to topple Fury’s world and his record.

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If Ngannou follows up with a similar performance against ‘AJ’, he will be next in line to face the winner of Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury. That leaves him with a choice but with a good headache. Should he pursue his boxing dream and keep collecting the hefty paychecks, or should he return to the fold of MMA? With another solid outing in the boxing ring, the allure of a cage will slowly fade away.

Not possible to have the best of both worlds

Well, when the Batie native announced his boxing debut, it was always an experiment in the eyes of others. Few took him seriously. Crossover fights were the buzz of the time. But what followed was a shock and a slap to his critics.

via Reuters

Moreover, a win separates him from fighting for the undisputed heavyweight title. A win will put him in the boxing rankings, and a win will bolster his image as a boxer, which some continue to doubt. In addition, he will leave the boxing ring with heavier pockets. For the Fury fight, he was paid $10 million, excluding PPV shares and sponsorships. Markedly, that’s more than what he earned in his decade-long, 20-fight MMA career.

Ngannou can even look at the possibility of retiring for good if he fails to surmount his British champion, with a beefed-up bank account. But that scenario is flipped if he finds himself on the cusp of a title fight against the winner of Usyk and Fury. Can he put his MMA career on hold till then? Can he step back into the steel cage after a detour of almost 3 years? It seems highly unlikely.

PFL’s hopes for ‘The Predator’ to close the gap in the UFC

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Why did the PFL fight hard for the 17-3 record holder’s signature when he left the UFC? To bridge the gap with the UFC and eventually overtake it. Ngannou was supposed to be their poster boy. Until the Fury fight offer came on the table.

The PFL has invested immensely in Ngannou and handed him additional duties to publicize the MMA in Africa. With his name taken in the same breath as the likes of Joshua and Fury, the PFL has the global name they wanted. However, their project might get derailed if Ngannou pulls off an upset. Ngannou’s success in boxing might be a double-edged sword for them. At 37, Ngannou can’t hang around forever and fight with the young guns, either in boxing or in the PFL. So he might have a tough call to make soon.

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What do you make of this upcoming fight between Francis Ngannou and Anthony Joshua? Do you believe he can survive in the world of boxing? Let us know in the comments below.

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Written by:

Rohit Lohan

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One take at a time

Rohit Lohan is a senior Boxing analyst and writer for EssentiallySports. With over 1000 articles to his credit, Rohit’s expertise has extended beyond mere reporting, with a keen focus on statistical analysis and accurate fight predictions that have garnered significant praise. Noteworthy coverages include Amanda Serrano's bold act of vacating her title in defiance of the WBC, and the creation of a highlight digest encapsulating the best fights of 2023.
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Edited by:

Snigdhaa Jaiswal