Ngannou to train for Joshua bout in Saudi Arabia


Francis Ngannou will have some new scenery for his next boxing camp.

Dewey Cooper, one of Ngannou’s top coaches, told ESPN in a video interview Thursday that the former UFC heavyweight champion will train in Saudi Arabia for his boxing match against Anthony Joshua. Ngannou faces Joshua March 8 in Riyadh.

Ngannou has mainly done his training camps at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, including the one for his stunning performance against lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury in a close defeat in October.

The team around Ngannou is not expected to change, but the geography will. Cooper will corner UFC up-and-comer Javid Basharat at UFC Fight Night on Saturday in Las Vegas, then fly to London for a news conference with Ngannou and Joshua. From there, Ngannou and Cooper will go straight to Saudi Arabia to commence Ngannou’s camp, rather than flying back to Vegas.

Sources told ESPN that the decision was a logistical one. Ngannou and his team didn’t want to lose training time flying back to the U.S. from England and then back to Saudi Arabia for the fight. Ngannou already is set up in Saudi Arabia with accommodations for him and his team, a gym and training partners. Eric Nicksick, another one of Ngannou’s top coaches at Xtreme Couture, will arrive in Saudi Arabia in late February.

Ngannou, a 37-year-old from Cameroon, made history three months ago, nearly toppling Fury, the best heavyweight boxer in the world. It was Ngannou’s pro boxing debut fight after a dominant run as MMA’s best heavyweight. Ngannou dropped Fury in the bout, and many felt Ngannou should have won on the scorecards, but Fury got the nod via split decision.

Ngannou left the UFC in early 2023 and signed a lucrative deal with PFL for MMA last May. One of the key reasons for his UFC departure was his desire to box and he was able to land a huge money fight against Fury in Saudi Arabia. With his performance in that bout, Ngannou has another high-profile boxing match coming against Joshua, who would have faced Deontay Wilder this year had Wilder beaten Joseph Parker last month.

“The fight gods, the gods of boxing, the gods of entertainment came together and made this happen,” said Cooper, who is also the president of boxing’s Team Combat League. “This wasn’t supposed to happen. … Now [Joshua] has no one to fight. Well, guess what? There’s someone that’ll fight him. There’s an MMA fighting champion that’ll fight him.”

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