Slowly but surely, the details of Francis Ngannou’s combat sports future have come together. Since leaving UFC’s roster to pursue free agency, Ngannou has officially signed with Professional Fighter’s League (PFL), a move that has allowed him to pursue his boxing dreams as well.
Just last week, Ngannou’s dream pugilistic match up against Tyson Fury materialized, as the two are now set to battle in October. “The Predator” will return to the mixed martial arts (MMA) cage in 2024, but there’s no word on his opponent. In fact, there’s not even a clear favorite for the position, which guarantees a significant payout.
The English Heavyweight didn’t make much of a splash back when he joined UFC in 2011. He won two of his first three bouts, but three knockout losses in five fights to the likes of Stipe Miocic, Matt Mitrione and Todd Duffee. The key detail here is that De Fries was just 27 years old when UFC released him in 2013 (details here).
Fighters don’t hit their Heavyweight prime until 35, typically. That’s when experience and skill start to overcome athleticism. For De Fries, his game elevated around the time he joined KSW in 2018. The premier Polish promotion proved to be the perfect platform for De Fries, who built his star as its Heavyweight champion. Undefeated (10-0) in KSW, De Fries just defended his title for the ninth time with a dominant display of grappling (watch highlights).
As it turns out, De Fries might just be the perfect opponent for Francis Ngannou’s PFL debut. First and foremost, he’s on a massive win streak while in his prime — that’s more ideal than digging up the remains of Fabricio Werdum like it’s still 2014.
Secondly, the style match up is interesting. Sure, De Fries has been knocked out before, but ... is anyone going to take clean Ngannou haymakers and just walk away? More important, De Fries employs the grinding, grappling style that Miocic once used to diffuse Ngannou. His odds aren’t great, but they’re about as good as you’re going to find outside UFC.
Lastly, it makes sense for both promotions. KSW is a massive promotion in Poland. It sells out huge stadiums consistently. However, the promotion remain more of an afterthought on this side of the pond, getting comparably less attention than Bellator and PFL despite its incredible live events:
PFL, meanwhile, needs a huge event, and it’s continually investing in Europe already. The promotions historically seem willing to co-promote as needed, and this could be a game-changing match up for both shows, as well as an incredible opportunity for De Fries and legitimate foe for Ngannou.
KSW co-owner Martin Lewandowski pitches the idea of a cross promotion between KSW & PFL.— Combat Sports Today (@CSTodayNews) July 15, 2023
Lewandowski suggested the idea of their heavyweight champion Phil De Fries (23-6) taking on Francis Ngannou (17-3).
A fight of this magnitude could take place in a stadium in Europe pic.twitter.com/XYvgGxqNCP