Francis Ngannou was looking at his fight with former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos at UFC 215 as a steppingstone to a shot at current champion Stipe Miocic. Even best-laid plans often go awry.
Such is what happened with Ngannou's plans when dos Santos was pulled from the fight card due to a potential anti-doping violation. It won't happen at UFC 215, but Alistair Overeem may step in to save the day for the rising heavyweight contender.
Dos Santos was pulled from the fight card after an out-of-competition sample collected on Aug. 10 was flagged for a potential anti-doping violation. The promotion tried to line up another opponent and keep Ngannou on the Edmonton fight card slated for Sept. 9, but was unsuccessful in securing anyone that made sense for him.
Overeem is currently a fighter without a fight, but he also just became a father for the third time and has been dedicating time to his family. He is, however, willing to face Ngannou, despite the fact that he is ranked higher than the Cameroonian-French fighter and has more to risk.
“Francis is a very strong guy and he’s doing really good,” Overeem said of Ngannou at a fan question and answer session in Rotterdam when asked about a potential bout.
“I’m thinking November, December. I just became a dad again for the third time, so first things first, last month was family time, ever since my fight with Werdum. But yeah, I’m open. If the UFC call me and say lets do this, then I’ll certainly say yes.”
With Ngannou currently sitting at No. 4 in the UFC heavyweight rankings and Overeem at No. 1 behind the champion, many would question the sense in Overeem risking his position. He doesn't see it that way, however. Theoretically, he should be next to challenge Miocic, but Overeem relishes the challenge before him, seeing it as a powerful motivator.
“I don’t really pay attention to the rankings,” Overeem said. “I think he’s five and I’m number one. It is what it is. I see that as an opponent. He’s a big guy; he’s a strong guy. I think he’s bigger than me. He’s a challenge and I just see it as a motivation; somebody trying to take something away from me.”