Francis Ngannou has a lot of options for his next fight.
Taking heavyweight champion Tyson Fury to a split decision in his pro boxing debut opened all kinds of doors for Ngannou when he returns in 2024. He already had a lucrative multi-fight deal with PFL in place for MMA, but he arguably solidified himself as the most attractive opponent for top heavyweights in boxing, including Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder.
UFC welterweight Matt Brown believes Ngannou should only entertain a return to MMA under one very specific condition.
“If somehow – [and] we know it’s not going to happen – the UFC co-promotes with PFL and it’s Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou,” Brown said on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “That’s the biggest fight you could make in MMA history. Now’s the time to strike if they’re ever going to do that.
“Obviously, Jon’s got to come back from his injury, and no offense to Stipe [Miocic] — I’m friends with Stipe, I’m a gigantic Stipe fan — but if I’m Jon Jones, I go talk to Dana [White] and I say, ‘Bro, let’s make this happen, let’s do the co-promotion.’
“It’s not going to kill the UFC. It’s not going to make the PFL a competitor to the UFC in any way, in my opinion.”
The UFC has never shown any interest whatsoever in co-promoting with another MMA promotion. Even when it purchased other organizations, the companies were kept separate — such as Strikeforce and WEC — until the talent from those promotions were eventually folded into the main roster.
That said, Brown doesn’t discount the chance that the UFC and PFL could potentially find a way to work together.
“I try to get the co-promotion with the UFC and fight Jon Jones,” Brown said. “That’s the biggest fight in MMA history. I don’t think it happens, but look, the UFC surprises us all the time with new things. They’re also under the Endeavor banner now, too. That’s a publicly traded company. They want money. Their stock price is what they care about.
“There’s a chance. I don’t think it’s completely out of the question. Dana has evolved a lot. Remember he said there would never be women [in the UFC] back in the day, right? Then he did that. We’re always shocked at the UFC’s business moves.”
The problem Ngannou faces in MMA is drawing an opponent that can draw interest, especially with the PFL planning to promote his fights on pay-per-view.
Heavyweight has always been a thin division in MMA when compared to marquee weight classes like lightweight or welterweight. Add to that, the UFC undoubtedly maintains the strongest roster of heavyweights in the sport, and that eliminates almost every other attractive option for Ngannou.
“There’s no one else to fight in MMA,” Brown said. “Ngannou’s the ‘A’ side. He needs a good ‘B’ side. He’s not an ‘A’ side to the point of a [Floyd] Mayweather, where he can fight any old scrub and it’s still going to sell a ton of pay-per-views. He’s still an ‘A’ side that needs a ‘B’ side.”
If a showdown against Jones remains unavailable, Brown sees no reason for Ngannou to even contemplate a return to MMA, especially with so many opportunities available to him in boxing.
“Other than [fighting Jon Jones], stay in boxing,” Brown advised. “The biggest boxing match out there is Anthony Joshua and it’s the best fight. Wilder obviously is the second option, much more dangerous fight.
“I think Anthony Joshua would also tell us a lot more about Ngannou. Because the big punch is where Ngannou has a great chance but as you said, Anthony Joshua — I wouldn’t say he doesn’t like to get hit, he’s actually had some pretty tough fights that he’s fought through and gotten hit and worked his way through it — but that has been the one knock on him. He’s not good with the wars. He’s not good with getting hit a lot. He’s not a savage brawler. He’s not the guy who bites down on his mouthpiece and walks forward through the fire. I think that’s a fight that tells us a lot about who Ngannou would be as a boxer. That is without question the biggest selling match out there for Ngannou, outside of Jon Jones. So push for that.”
Listen to new episodes of The Fighter vs. The Writer every Tuesday with audio only versions of the podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and iHeartRadio
This story originally appeared on MMA fighting