Francis Ngannou contested his first pro boxing fight against Tyson Fury

Francis Ngannou has the combat sports world at his feet after coming up just short against Tyson Fury in his professional boxing debut on Saturday.

Despite being a massive underdog, Ngannou dropped Fury in the third round and convinced one judge he was the winner.

Controversy over the split-decision win for Fury will continue, but what about Ngannou? Could he stay in boxing and take on the likes of Anthony Joshua? Or will he return to MMA and set his sights on big fights there?

‘Hopefully we get a rematch’

Fury revealed before the fight in Saudi Arabia there was no rematch clause for either man.

The Gypsy King just about held on to his undefeated record and is expected to fight rival heavyweight champion Oleksandr Uysk next, although a mooted 23 December date now seems unlikely.

Ngannou, 37, clearly feels he deserves another crack at Fury, saying on social media: “I’ll keep my eyes on him. Hopefully we get a rematch. This time things will definitely be different.”

Fury’s co-promoter Frank Warren has already floated the idea of potentially working with Ngannou in the future, suggesting a fight with Joe Joyce would be perfect for the new boxing star.

A return to MMA set for 2024

Ngannou is signed to PFL – the Professional Fighters League – but has yet to fight for the mixed martial arts promotion.

He confirmed the partnership in May after leaving the UFC but quickly announced he would be facing Fury in boxing.

PFL executive Donn Davis said this week Ngannou was likely to compete in an MMA match in 2024, but he was unsure if that would be the fighter’s next assignment.

Davis also admitted there are not a huge amount of potential opponents for Ngannou in the PFL.

Their 2022 champion is Croatian Ante Delija and the PFL holds its World Championship on 24 November with Russia’s Denis Goltsov and Brazil’s Renan Ferreira set to contest the heavyweight final.

Such athletes might present competitive fights for Ngannou, but perhaps not “compelling” enough, according to Davis.

A Jon Jones super-fight?

After his acrimonious split with the UFC, it seems unlikely Ngannou will fight for the MMA promotion again.

But that has not stopped rumours a fight with UFC champion Jon Jones could happen at some stage.

The PFL says it is willing to work with its rival series, but UFC president Dana White has until now always been against the idea.

PFL’s Davis thinks Jones is the best option for Ngannou, but the UFC’s two-weight champion is set to miss the next nine months after undergoing surgery on a pectoral tendon.

Jones was due to defend his heavyweight title against Stipe Miocic at UFC 295 next week before injuring himself.

“There’s only one guy in MMA who is interesting right now for Francis Ngannou: Jon Jones,” Davis said on the MMA Hour.

“Everybody says, what about Stipe? Maybe. Give him a half a point, 1.5 guys who are compelling.

“I don’t want to say who could put on a good fight for him. There are three or four other guys who could put on a competitive fight for Francis.

“I’m not talking about a competitive fight, I’m saying compelling.”

Ngannou v Joshua?

Split image of Francis Ngannou in the ring with his boxing gloves and Anthony Joshua in the ring
Francis Ngannou and Anthony Joshua have 35 knockouts between them in fighting

Eddie Hearn was quick to jump into the discussion about who Ngannou could fight next over the weekend.

The Matchroom promoter thinks a fight with two-time heavyweight champion Joshua could attract big numbers after Ngannou proved his mettle against Fury.

“Ngannou has earned the right for a big fight,” Hearn told Boxing Social. “Let AJ go in and knock Ngannou out inside three rounds. Not a problem.”

Hearn, who has Joshua in his stable, also thinks a fight between Ngannou and the British fighter could take place in Africa, considering both men have roots there.

Ngannou was born in Cameroon, while Joshua has a Nigerian family background.

A fight with Wilder in the PFL cage?

A final option for Ngannou is inviting a boxer to fight him in MMA.

Fury has toyed with the idea before, but Ngannou claims former heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder has been training in MMA for several months.

“That’s something that can potentially happen,” Ngannou said on the MMA Hour.

“Nothing is set, but it’s been something been coming to my attention, so that’s something that makes sense. He’s really serious about MMA.”

PFL’s Davis suggested the pair could compete in a “mixed rules fight” which could see elements of MMA and boxing incorporated and take the pressure off Wilder when it comes to mastering the ground game like wrestling and jiu jitsu.