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Francis Ngannou: What's next after defeat to Tyson Fury? Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua, return to PFL or MMA?

Even though he lost to Tyson Fury, Francis Ngannou's performance still shocked the world; Now many wonder what his next move will be, whether it's a rematch with WBC heavyweight champion Fury, squaring up with another contender like Deontay Wilder or a return to the PFL, he has options

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Former UFC bantamweight fighter Brad Pickett praises the performance of MMA fighter Francis Ngannou against Tyson Fury and believes his showing will help grow the popularity of the sport.

Francis Ngannou felt he should have won his first high-profile boxing bout against Tyson Fury last Saturday in Saudi Arabia.

Many doubted the former UFC heavyweight champion could go the full distance, but he stayed on his feet throughout their 10 rounds.

Fury held on to his undefeated record thanks to a split decision that divided fans on social media.

Now, the Cameroonian mixed martial artist has the chance to bolster his positioning within the boxing world. We look at what - or who - could be next...

LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 26: Francis Ngannou at the Tyson Fury vs. Francis Ngannou open workout on September 26, 2023, at Ngannou's private gym in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Amy Kaplan/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)
Image: Ngannou is now a man in demand (Photo by Amy Kaplan/Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

A rematch with Fury

It's the most obvious answer, right?

Ngannou matched Fury's pace, mirrored his every move, and even dropped him with a fiery check hook in the third round.

After that performance he holds all the hallmarks of a man ready to return to the ring.

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Francis Ngannou said on his Instagram account that he was robbed by the judges and believes he won the fight and is hoping for a rematch against Tyson Fury.

In a post-fight interview on his YouTube channel, the 37-year-old spoke candidly of his physical and mental state throughout the fight and why he's keen on a second meeting with Fury.

He said: "Fury came out very fast; he wanted to make the space his own and show everyone who was boss. But I remained composed and aware of his speed.

"I didn't want to throw heavy punches because I might've missed, and if the fight went to the decision, I might have a hard time if I emptied my tank early".

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Sky Sports' Matthew Macklin believes Tyson Fury underestimated opponent Francis Ngannou, as he narrowly defeated the former MMA fighter in a controversial points decision.

The UFC's first Cameroon-born champion also gathered vital data that might help him derail Fury's tactics in future fights.

"I switched to southpaw, and as soon as I did that, he did the same. But he wasn't as confident, and it wasn't as easy," Ngannou explained.

"His jab from the southpaw position was inefficient; it was easy for me to slip and move to his left. I realised that and was using it a lot.

"Sometimes I would switch to southpaw not to fight, but to make him think and work out what to do next. I was more efficient, but I didn't land because I think my footwork wasn't as sharp. I wasn't bringing my back foot, so I was coming up short".

Though he admitted he "never felt in danger", maintaining his fitness in an entirely new sport was a challenge that Ngannou had to navigate round by round.

"I was constantly thinking about my body, how I was feeling, if I was okay. My heart rate went up and then down, and that was when I questioned myself," he said.

"But at some point, I stopped thinking, and I was just doing it. I got to the 10th round, and I felt fresher than I had in the second or third round, and that's where experience steps in."

Now armed with the knowledge that he can keep up with the intensity of the sport, the fighter who many dub the "baddest man on the planet" has no preferences for who he might want to face next - just that it should happen.

"As far as preference, I don't really have one. I believe we'll run this back, but I'm unsure when, as I think Fury will fight Oleksandr Usyk next," he said.

"In the meantime, I still have some MMA fights to get through; I might go to PFL and come back. It's been almost two years since I last fought, so I'll be back and compete twice next year.

"I have an excitement for boxing. I believed I could do it before, but now I know I can do it, I've been there. This experience was unique and will help me".

Taking on Wilder

If Fury isn't up to a rematch, there's another name on the list that's just as enticing: Deontay Wilder.

The 38-year-old's manager, Shelly Finkel, said that although he and his fighter would be interested in a bout with Ngannou, their first choice is Anthony Joshua.

He told Sky Sports: "Deontay is interested in fighting Francis Ngannou.

"But his first choice is still Anthony Joshua."

Francis Ngannou
Image: Ngannou versus Wilder would pit two of the hardest punchers in the world against one another

Given that neither are champions despite being their sports' hardest hitters, it seems a contest that could attract a lot of eyes.

Should Joshua take himself out of the running for Wilder, Ngannou, the name with the fame, will be an ideal matchup.

What about Joshua?

Speaking of Joshua, although unlikely, he too could be an option to square off with Ngannou.

Formerly a two-time unified world heavyweight champion, Joshua has been looking to work his way back into the title picture since his back-to-back defeats to Oleksandr Usyk.

Ngannou efforts against Fury make him a more legitimate opponent for Joshua now and the Briton's promotional team will be exploring that potential option.

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Anthony Joshua says he was boxing

A shot at the PFL heavyweight championship belt

Ngannou has expressed a desire to return to mixed martial arts, and if he does so, he may have the PFL heavyweight championship title in his sights.

Currently, Renan Ferreira and Denis Goltsov are going to fight for it on November 24; it's not entirely implausible to think that Ngannou could slot in for a chance to contest the belt with the winner.

Add in the fact that "The Predator" is offering a substantial payday to his opponents, there'll be very few in MMA who would turn down such an opportunity.

Special mentions...

There are plenty of high-level fighters who will be eager to lure Ngannou back to the boxing ring.

Martin Bakole looked highly impressive when hammering Carlos Takam on the Fury-Ngannou undercard. With a high world ranking he could offer Ngannou an enticing showdown. He certainly wants that fight.

Bakole's promoter Ben Shalom said: "A lot of people might also be wanting to avoid [Ngannou] now if he stays in boxing rather than going back to MMA, but Martin Bakole wants that fight. He's told me he's more than confident not only of beating Ngannou but of ending the fight early. I have no doubt that would be one of the most exciting fights of the year.

"Carlos Takam is a former unified world heavyweight championship title challenger. He took Joseph Parker the distance, he took Anthony Joshua 10 rounds before Joshua was able to end the fight. Nobody has ever done to Takam what Bakole did to him on Saturday night, stopping him in just four rounds.

"Bakole announced himself as the heavyweight division's new dangerman."

Zhilei Zhang, who would bring a WBO 'Interim' title with him, also has an eye on the Ngannou fight and Britons like Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce have been touted as potential opponents too.

Of course, were the PFL to acquire MMA promotion Bellator, Ryan Bader and Linton Vassell could be in the mix.

There's also the possibility of Bellator's light-heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov stepping up too.

Ngannou might have been defeated against Fury, but the manner of that loss will bring its own rewards.

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