Photo by Hannah Foslien/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC
- Francis Ngannou is "hopeful" he will one day compete in a high-profile super-fight in boxing, just like Conor McGregor did in 2017.
- McGregor lost in the 10th round to Floyd Mayweather in what was his debut in the sport.
- But this has not put off Ngannou, who told us he’s a believer.
- He told Business Insider that throughout his life he’s been told he can’t do something, but is now competing against the top athletes the UFC has to offer.
- Ngannou fights Junior dos Santos in a heavyweight bout on Saturday, June 29.
- Visit Business Insider’s home page for more stories.
Francis Ngannou is "hopeful" that his UFC career, one that has already seen him fight for the heavyweight championship, will lead him into a boxing super-fight against Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder.
As a 260-pound, 6-foot-5 fighter capable of concussive punching and kimura locks, Ngannou built a reputation as one of the more feared athletes in mixed martial arts.
The Cameroonian challenged for the UFC title in 2018 but lost a decision to then-champion Stipe Miocic. Though he failed to come back, losing his very next fight to Derrick Lewis later in the year, he bucked the two-fight losing run by knocking out Curtis Blaydes and Cain Velasquez.
Ngannou told Business Insider that though losing is "always unfortunate," his defeats have been a learning experience. "You always learn more about the loss than a win," he said. "I haven’t been in this sport for a very long time, so I had to learn before those two losses, and then after the defeats I saw a different aspect of this sport. I keep learning and adding technical and combative experience."
Ngannou returns to the UFC Octagon against Junior dos Santos on Saturday, June 29. He said training camp left him "tired" but added "that is normal." He said: "Everything is on point … I have no injury, I’ll just go in there and get the job done."
Beating dos Santos will be no easy feat as the 35-year-old is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and has been fighting elite mixed martial artists for more than a decade.
But should he triumph, he wants a second shot at the UFC heavyweight belt (currently held by Dan Cormier) before he seeks out opportunities in boxing.
He added that boxing is unpredictable, especially after Andy Ruiz Jr. shook the world when he overcame a third round knockdown to score four of his own en route to a seventh round referee stoppage over Anthony Joshua on June 1.
It has opened up boxing’s glamour division, with at least four fighters now big enough to warrant top paydays whenever they fight one another.
"They’re good … great fighters who can all dominate," Ngannou said, of Fury, Wilder, Joshua, and Ruiz Jr.
Combat sports has already seen one marquee crossover fight, when Conor McGregor’s boxing debut came against Floyd Mayweather.
And though the bout was a bit of a dud, Ngannou sees no reason why another high-profile crossover can’t happen.
"I’m a believer," he said. "I’m someone who believes things can happen. That’s why I’m here. Nobody thought I’d be here today fighting the top UFC fighters. I can fight those guys [in boxing]."
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
The notion is not so outlandish. After all, he grew up idolizing Mike Tyson and emigrated to Paris, France, around 2008 to pursue a career in the sweet science.
In gyms, he trained as a boxer. He pounded the heavy bags, hit the pads with a boxing coach, and even sparred with an athlete who would go on to challenge Anthony Joshua for the world heavyweight boxing title in 2017 — Carlos Takam.
"Before I even got to the UFC I used to spar Carlos Takam, going to his gym and sparring him," he said. "Everyone [in the gym] watched."
One problem with Ngannou’s ambition to box is that his UFC contract does not allow it, but this, he believes, will not prove to be a stumbling block.
"My UFC contract doesn’t allow … but when Conor did it, his UFC contract didn’t allow it. They just compromised, made it work, and made sure everyone was happy to make it happen."
That desire to compete in a high-profile boxing fight will be nothing but a dream if he fails to beat dos Santos, though.
"I take it step by step," he said. "Junior first, then fight for the title, then we see what happens. I am open to everything that can happen.
"I think it’s something that could happen," he said. "And I’m hopeful."
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