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Pad-hitting Francis Ngannou ‘either ahead of schedule or on track’ for UFC return

UFC 218 Open Workouts Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

I guess Conor McGregor isn’t the only MMA “super freak.”

Reigning UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou could make his Octagon return by the end of the year, assuming he continues to follow his existing recovery timeline following recent knee surgery. “The Predator” made the “dumb decision” to compete at UFC 270 despite blowing out both his ACL and MCL.

Credit the “great strides” made inside the gym.

“I think he’s either ahead of schedule or on track, one or the other,” Nicksick told MMA Junkie Radio. “He’s making great strides. He’s back in the gym moving around, hitting pads and stuff. That’s the biggest thing for me as a coach. What I miss out on is time of growing, areas that we can improve on. That’s where I get like, ‘Oh man, we’re not doing enough X, Y, Z.’ And I’m okay with that. We don’t have a fight lined up or anything right now. His main focus is getting his knee rehabbed to the point where we can get back in the lab and start doing these things again. Hopefully, and it sounds like for what he’s saying that if something were to happen, it would be the end of the year or early 2023.”

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

As of this writing, there is still no clearcut contender for the division title. The once-beaten Gane is currently ranked No. 1 at 265 pounds, one spot above former champion Stipe 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.