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Midnight Mania! Francis Ngannou faces nine month recovery after scheduled March 18 knee surgery

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UFC 270: Ngannou v Gane Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Welcome to Midnight Mania!

Back in January, Francis Ngannou put on a majorly gritty performance to defend his UFC Heavyweight title for the first time. Amidst contract negotiations and potential lawsuits, Ngannou rallied from an 0-2 start vs. Ciryl Gane, taking over the final three rounds on the strength of his wrestling. It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but it was a serious display of heart and conditioning from the champ.

Even more impressively, he did it on a badly injured knee.

In an effort to repair Ngannou’s torn ACL and MCL, it’s been known that Ngannou was likely to go under the knife. Now, his manager Marquel Martin advised ESPN that Ngannou has a surgery date of March 18. The expected recovery timeline is about nine months, which means Ngannou is highly unlikely to return to action in 2022.

What’s next for the promotion and its champion? Ngannou fought out his contract at UFC 270, but the champion’s clause complicates matters quite a bit. UFC President Dana White remains optimistic that the two can come to terms, though that may depend on UFC’s willingness to let Ngannou cross over into the boxing ring opposite Tyson Fury.

An interim title also seems distinctly possible. UFC was quick to book such a fight when Ngannou didn’t immediately defend his title last year, so a high-profile fight — perhaps involving Jon Jones? — wouldn’t come as a shock.

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