Francis Ngannou clearly didn’t get the same script as everyone else.
The former UFC heavyweight champion was seemingly befuddled, if not a little chagrined, at the news unveiled on Friday that Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk had signed a contract to face each other for the undisputed heavyweight championship in Saudi Arabia, reportedly on Dec. 23 or in January.
Of course, Fury has other business to tend to in the meantime: a 10-round, legitimate boxing bout against Ngannou, who has never boxed professionally before. That fight will take place on Oct. 28, also in Saudi Arabia. Fury’s WBC heavyweight title, however, will not be on the line.
And common sense dictates that the only way a Fury-Usyk fight can happen is if Fury dispatches Ngannou, as expected, without incurring any serious injuries. A loss would seemingly derail plans for anointing a single champion in the heavyweight division, a feat that has not been achieved since Lennox Lewis did so in 1999.
Ngannou certainly has no intention of being a pushover, and said as much in his first public remarks since the news was announced.
“I have been underestimated and doubted before,” Ngannou wrote in a post on X. “We’ll See. #FuryNgannou #CountingChickens #riyadhseason #BattleoftheBaddest”
Ngannou then wrote in a cheeky follow-up post that he does not expect Fury to have medical clearance to fight Usyk after he is done fighting him.
“I don’t know what’s the minimum medical suspension in boxing but I really don’t understand how Tyson can fight in December after what’s going to happen on 10/28 [quizzical emoji],” Ngannou posted.
Ngannou, who is Cameroonian-French, is currently trained by heavyweight great Mike Tyson. Ngannou parted ways with the UFC earlier this year and struck a multi-fight deal with the Professional Fighters League; a clause in that contract allows him to pursue a boxing match. It is understood that Ngannou will be making a career-high purse against Fury.
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.