Francis Ngannou remains the biggest free agent in combat sports after he reportedly turned down a multi-million dollar offer from the UFC but he hasn’t signed anywhere new just yet.
While his next move is still being debated, UFC President Dana White has stated rather emphatically that he’ll never invite Ngannou back to the promotion after negotiations between the two sides broke down during an attempt to hold on to the now former heavyweight champion. Of course, White has said the same about other athletes never returning to the UFC only to mend fences down the road.
For his part, UFC Vegas 71 headliner Curtis Blaydes, who has faced Ngannou twice previously, doesn’t expect “The Predator” to return to the promotion but not because White won’t have him.
“I don’t think [he will return to the UFC] but my reasons for that are I believe he’s going to get a boxing fight — he only needs one to make $10 or $15 million,” Blaydes told MMA Fighting. “After you make $15 million, it’s hard to go back to $800,000 and he doesn’t want to have to deal with the grappling. He would rather just have to strike.
“That’s what he wants to do. I believe he’s going to be able to get a boxing fight, get the money and he’ll be good for life.”
Ngannou has long desired the chance to cross over to boxing with the 36-year-old fighter teasing potential matchups with heavyweights such as Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder.
Any of those three fights could score Ngannou a lucrative payday with boxers typically keeping the lion’s share of the profits on a big pay-per-view event. UFC superstar Conor McGregor reportedly took home north of $100 million for his 2017 boxing match against Floyd Mayweather and while Ngannou probably isn’t looking at that kind of money, he could still cash out with a significant eight-figure paycheck.
“Why would anyone fault him?” Blaydes said. “Everyone wants to be a millionaire. I’m never going to hate on anyone getting a bag ever.”
As ferocious as Ngannou was during his UFC career, he would be a sizable underdog against any of the top heavyweight boxers but Blaydes is quick to nix how much that really matters in the grand scheme of things.
Ngannou certainly wants to win but Blaydes knows that the money the Cameroon native will receive is based upon how many people watch his fight, not whether or not he has a realistic chance of beating somebody like Fury or Wilder in the ring.
“It doesn’t matter,” Blaydes said. “It’s about getting a bag. He can go out there and get KO’d in the first 45 seconds, the money’s in the account. Who cares? It’s like Ben Askren. He went out there and got demolished [by Jake Paul]. Who cares? He’s rich.”
Despite the odds going against Ngannou beating one of the best heavyweights in boxing in his debut, Blaydes won’t completely count him out.
Blaydes knows the kind of power that Ngannou can generate with his hands and he only needs one glancing shot against anybody in combat sports to pull off the upset.
“The only reason he has a chance to beat those guys is because it’s heavyweight,” Blaydes said. “If he was 155 [pounds] like [Conor] McGregor [no chance]. I never thought [Conor] was actually going to beat Floyd. Not for one second because it’s not heavyweight. He doesn’t have that one punch knockout power, especially with those big gloves on.
“I’ve sparred with big gloves and I’ve sparred with little gloves. They’re different sports. The things you can get away with doing with big gloves and the things you can get away with, with small gloves, it’s a different sport. Without small gloves, McGregor had no chance against a guy like Floyd. Ngannou is a heavyweight. He hits you one time, even with those gloves on, you can go to sleep. He’s got a shot.”