Ngannou eyes Ferreira-Bader winner after boxing

Boxing

Francis Ngannou is two weeks away from his second appearance in a professional boxing ring, but he’s already considering his eventual return to mixed martial arts.

Ngannou (17-3) hinted Thursday on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” that he’d likely face the winner of Saturday’s heavyweight contest between 2023 PFL champion Renan Ferreira and Bellator MMA champion Ryan Bader.

“I think the winner of this is the guy I’m going to fight in my MMA return,” Ngannou told ESPN. “It is my intention to return to the sport. When exactly, I think depends on March 8. [Ferreira and Bader] are both champions and one of them is going to be a ‘Champ Champ.’ So, I think there isn’t a better way to find an opponent [for me], since I am a champion myself.”

Ngannou is scheduled to face former WBO, IBF and WBA heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (27-3, 24 KOs) in a non-title boxing match on March 8 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Ngannou, of Cameroon, has turned into one of the most compelling stories in combat sports. The former UFC heavyweight champion parted ways with the UFC in 2023 despite never losing his belt, and he signed an exclusive contract with the PFL. That deal gave him the option to box, which he exercised last October in a bout against lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury.

Ngannou, 37, lost to Fury by split decision in Saudi Arabia, but he shocked the boxing and MMA world by knocking Fury down in the third round and winning the fight on one judge’s scorecard.

Despite his wildly successful crossover into boxing, Ngannou has always maintained he would eventually return to MMA in the PFL’s SmartCage. For now, it appears the return will happen against Ferreira or Bader, on a PFL pay-per-view.

“I never thought I had finished my MMA career,” Ngannou said. “I just wanted to chase my dream in boxing. Obviously, I can do both and combine them whenever the opportunity is there. I’m not done with MMA. How complicated that is for me will be new ground, but I really have a feeling I want to go back to my comfort zone and dominate for a little bit and then come back to boxing.”

Ngannou’s announcement comes two days before Saturday’s matchup between Brazil’s Ferreira (12-3) and Bader (31-7), a former NCAA Division-I wrestler. The 6-foot-8 Ferreira, 34, has finished four of his last six official fights via first-round knockout. Bader, 40, is a two-weight Bellator champ out of Tempe, Arizona, who formerly fought in the UFC at light heavyweight.

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