Can Francis Ngannou upset one of the greatest boxers of all-time in the squared circle?
Junior Dos Santos, who shared the octagon with Ngannou, doesn’t give the UFC heavyweight champion much of a chance.
Undefeated boxing champion Tyson Fury recently improved to 32-0-1 with his devastating knockout of Dillian Whyte at Wembley Stadium. In his post-fight interview, Fury beckoned Ngannou into the ring and proposed a match — either in boxing or with a hybrid rule set — to find out, in Ngannou’s words, “who is the baddest motherf***** on the planet.”
Dos Santos once dominated the UFC heavyweight division with his crisp boxing, which knocked out the likes of Fabricio Werdum, Cain Velasquez and Frank Mir. After losing the belt, he still showed power in stoppage wins over Mark Hunt, Tai Tuivasa, and Derrick Lewis.
Now scheduled to face Yorgan de Castro on May 20 at Eagle FC, Dos Santos broke down the potential boxing clash between Ngannou and Fury on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca.
“I don’t honestly think, based on his last performance [vs. Ciryl Gane], that he would have much success in boxing,” Dos Santos said of Ngannou. “Aside from his technique being a bit limited in the way he moves … boxing isn’t just punching, it’s movement, how where you stand and how you walk. Tyson Fury is a gigantic man who moves really well. We saw in [Ngannou’s] last fight that he would’ve lost to Gane if he’d stayed on his feet, so he was smart enough to decide to show his ground game.
“I see [Ngannou] being quite limited for the boxing world,” Dos Santos continued. “We’re talking about the guy who beat everybody — Tyson Fury, super tough, gigantic. … And as for the punching power, Tyson Fury fought Deontay Wilder, who hits like a truck. [Wilder’s] punch is a demolisher. Maybe Ngannou has as much knockout power, maybe a bit more or maybe a bit less, we don’t really know, especially with big gloves.
“Ngannou doesn’t have Deontay’s level of boxing. I foresee a complicated fight, but, of course, a fight is a fight and Ngannou has what everybody likes to see: Knockout power. He lands — brother, it’s over. Especially at heavyweight, when all that matters is one hand landing. If it lands well, you go down.”
That said, Dos Santos isn’t confident the match will even come to fruition. Ngannou and his team claim he will become a free agent when his contract expires in 2023, even though he still holds the UFC heavyweight title. A former UFC champion, Dos Santos isn’t as optimistic about Ngannou’s chances of leaving the organization as the beltholder.
“He should have lost [to Gane] then,” Dos Santos said with a laugh. “From what I’ve heard, Ngannou could have made way more money, millions even, in his last fight, but it was his decision not to re-sign because his plan is to box Tyson Fury. That would be exceptional for him, because in boxing, financially speaking, when you become champion or fight at the top, you can make a portion of pay-per-view, so money is really big.
“We see how much money boxers make. I wish him luck, [but] I think it’s a bit complicated at the moment, being UFC champion, to go out and box.”
“Cigano” always wanted to box during his UFC reign, but never had the same opportunity that was given to former two-division UFC champion Conor McGregor, who famously crossed over to box Floyd Mayweather. Dos Santos was scheduled to box Kubrat Pulev (28-2 in boxing) at Triller Combat 2 this past February, but the event was cancelled.
Now booked against de Castro in MMA, Dos Santos said he’s still expected to face Pulev in July or August.
“I was going to make way more at Triller than I’ve made in the UFC, and now I’m going to make as much as I made in the UFC [at Eagle FC]. In other words, [I’m making] more than the UFC heavyweight champion,” Dos Santos said with a laugh. “Not bad.
“I’m making good money in a good fight on a great platform and with great possibilities I can embrace. In the UFC, I was tied to the opportunities they brought me. Here, I can work in a different way if I think I should. I can call it freedom. That freedom is interesting.”