Francis Ngannou (right) is a "credible" opponent for Anthony Joshua, according to Eddie Hearn

Anthony Joshua could fight MMA star Francis Ngannou in a boxing match, according to promoter Eddie Hearn.

Ngannou almost stunned WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury on his professional boxing debut, losing on a controversial split decision in Saudi Arabia.

Hearn revealed he has exchanged messages with the Cameroon-born fighter’s camp following that bout.

“As we start to plan AJ’s next six to 12 months we just want to know if that is an option,” Hearn told the BBC.

“We could have that event in Saudi Arabia or other countries in the Middle East. Africa sounds incredible – can they come up with the money to do it? I don’t know.

“All of a sudden that fight between two giants, they’re carved out of stone, it becomes a massive fight. We’re definitely willing to consider it.”

Despite being the underdog, former UFC fighter Ngannou, 37, knocked down Fury in the third round and convinced one of the judges he was the winner.

“The MMA world believe Ngannou beats everyone,” Hearn told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“When I met Ngannou he was trying to pitch me AJ against Ngannou in Africa. I spoke to AJ about it at the time and he said ‘I want to try to win the world heavyweight championship now’.

“I said ‘this guy was close to beating Tyson Fury so he surely has to be a credible fight’. The MMA world are telling me Ngannou beats AJ easily. I’m like ‘please make the fight because that’s not the case’.”

Hearn says Fury v Ngannou has made him even more certain two-time heavyweight champion Joshua, 34, would beat his fellow Briton if they ever fought.

“I’ve always been convinced AJ beats Tyson Fury but after watching that fight now I’m so sure,” said Hearn.

“I don’t believe his punch resistance is quite the same, I don’t believe he is necessarily the same fighter. Maybe the fights with Deontay Wilder took something out of him.”

An undisputed fight between Fury and Oleksandr Usyk was scheduled for 23 December, but BBC Sport understands that is now doubtful, with the Briton’s team keen for the bout to take place in February after his hard-fought win over Ngannou.

However, Joshua is still hoping to fight just before Christmas.

“It’s seven weeks on Saturday. AJ wants to fight on 23 December,” said Hearn. “We appreciate it won’t be a mega-fight. He wanted to box three times this year.”

Benn could fight Eubank in January

Hearn said last month there was “a huge desire from both camps” to make a Conor Benn-Chris Eubank Jr fight happen.

The pair were set to meet 12 months ago – 30 years after their fathers Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank Sr fought – but the bout was cancelled after Benn failed two voluntary doping tests.

Benn does not currently have a licence to fight in the UK.

In his latest interview, Hearn said: “Eubank [v Benn] looks like 27 January so there’s a chance AJ could go early January.”