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Surgically-repaired Francis Ngannou sets new timeline for UFC return

UFC may not need an interim heavyweight title after all.

That’s because reigning division champion Francis Ngannou could return for the promotion’s year-end pay-per-view (PPV) in December, assuming his recovery process continues on its current timeline.

Ngannou underwent knee surgery to repair his ACL and MCL last March.

That said, we still don’t know if “The Predator” — who wants to test his might in the “sweet science” — can come to terms with UFC President Dana White after a public (and somewhat messy) falling out over championship compensation.

“It’s getting better,” Ngannou told TMZ Sports. “It’s been pretty good. It wasn’t easy, but we’re getting there. It’s been only three months, so yeah, I’m still doing physical therapy. If everything goes well I’ll be ready by the end of the year because it’s going to be nine months. So let’s say late December or early next year.”

Ngannou is coming off a successful title defense over Ciryl Gane at UFC 270.

Long delays are not uncommon between UFC title fights. Former champion Stipe Miocic only registered three title defenses between 2019-21 and waited an entire year to rematch longtime nemesis (and former titleholder) Daniel Cormier.

As of this writing, there is no clearcut contender for the division title. The once-beaten Gane is ranked No. 1 at 265 pounds, one spot above Miocic, who lost the heavyweight title to Ngannou at UFC 260 back in early 2021.

Perhaps a victory for Tai Tuivasa at UFC Paris could take care of that problem.