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Chatri Sityodtong confirms Francis Ngannou talks, warns ‘he’ll have a tough time’ in ONE Championship

Francis Ngannou remains the biggest free agent in combat sports, but the former UFC heavyweight champion has been fielding offers from multiple promotions interested in securing his services.

Among those in talks with Ngannou is ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong, who confirmed conversations are ongoing with “The Predator” about potentially working together in the near future. According to Sityodtong, his team at ONE has been engaged with Ngannou for some time and plans for a sit-down meeting.

“He has a bunch of offers on the table,” Sityodtong said on The MMA Hour. “He’s waiting for our final offer. I am going to meet Francis this Saturday [in Los Angeles]. He and I will sit down and talk and for sure; ONE can give him the biggest offer on the table out of all his bids, but it has to work for him, it has to work for us. I just believe that meeting somebody, you get the energy.

“I think there’s going to be big news on Francis shortly, and I think he’s taking his time. From the few interactions I’ve had with Francis, he’s very thoughtful and methodical and careful. At the same time, he’s a very principled man. That’s one thing I’ve learned about him. He’s very principled. He does things on principle. A dollar here, a dollar there won’t sway him. It’s principles. That’s what’s very admirable about him. At the same time, I do believe the world is his oyster. I do believe he’s a big pay-per-view draw in boxing or in MMA.”

Ngannou split with the UFC largely due to his desire to have more control over his contract, which would allow him to explore options outside of MMA. In particular, he’s been interested in a boxing match against top names like Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, or Anthony Joshua.

Sityodtong knows ONE Championship could offer those opportunities, because the Singapore-based promotion holds cards that constantly feature various combat sports: MMA, Muay Thai, kickboxing and grappling competitions.

ONE even promoted a recent boxing title fight, which is why Sityodtong knows it would be a natural fit for Ngannou.

“If we did boxing, we would be the co-promoter with him,” Sityodtong explained. “One of the big differences at ONE versus a UFC as a comparison point, at ONE we offer multiple disciplines. It’s not just mixed martial arts.

“So we had a WBC boxing world title before in ONE. I think this was 2017 or 2018. It was a regular ONE show, you saw Muay Thai, you saw the grappling, you saw MMA, and we had a boxing world title fight. So the platform we’ve built, we really want the best fighters on the planet.”

While Ngannou would be a major acquisition for ONE, especially as the promotion prepares for its U.S. debut on May 5, Sityodtong warns the 36-year-old Cameroon native he won’t get a free pass just because he carries such a big name.

In fact, Sityodtong believes Ngannou could potentially struggle against many of the top heavyweights in ONE, and that goes for the champions or the top prospects in the division.

“I think that he’ll have a tough time in our heavyweight division, to be frank, which I’ve said publicly and I think it’s a big challenge for Francis,” Sityodtong said. “When you look at a guy like Anatoly Malykhin, who’s 12-0, was a former a former Russian national team wrestler, one-punch KO power. He’s 12-0 with an 80 percent finish rate. That is the worst nightmare to face in a big striker like Ngannou, but at the same time Francis has an ‘X’ factor. He’s a giant monster.

“A rising star like [Marcus] Buchecha, I think he’s 5-0 or 6-0 in ONE, he is arguably the greatest grappler of all time. He’s a 13-time, 14-time jiu-jitsu world champion. He’s run through all opponents. He has incredible wrestling. That kind of style is a nightmare for Francis. That’s just a rising star within the heavyweight division.”

Sityodtong believes if Ngannou really wants a challenge, then ONE Championship is the only place who can provide him that option at heavyweight in MMA. He doesn’t see the same level of talent at heavyweight at Bellator or the PFL, both potential suitors to Ngannou.

“I think that Francis will run through the heavyweight divisions of all the other organizations,” Sityodtong said. “The only heavyweight division that will give him a challenge [is ONE Championship].

“I’ve looked at the other heavyweight divisions, not to knock other organizations, but just looking at the skill sets of the heavyweight division and typically again in mixed martial arts, the heavyweight division has always been a weaker spot globally whereas the lower weight classes, the technique level, the athleticism [is higher]. Because in the heavyweight division, if you have one big punch, you can end the fight and not necessarily be the very best in the world.”

Sityodtong doesn’t necessarily expect to have an answer about Ngannou’s future based on their upcoming meeting. But he knows the ferocious heavyweight will likely make a decision about his future soon enough.

“I do believe the world is his oyster,” Sityodtong said about Ngannou. “I do believe he’s a big pay-per-view draw in boxing or in MMA. I like Francis. I think he brings a lot to the table.”

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