Francis Ngannou’s next MMA opponent will be Renan Ferreira vs Ryan Bader winner

Francis Ngannou’s return to mixed martial arts will come against the winner of Renan Ferreira vs Ryan Bader, it has been announced.

Ngannou left the UFC and relinquished the promotion’s heavyweight title in early 2023, before signing for the Professional Fighters League (PFL), a rival company. As part of his deal with the PFL, the Cameroonian is allowed to box on the side, and he has made the most of that clause so far.

In October, Ngannou made his boxing debut against WBC champion Tyson Fury in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Ngannou, 37, floored the unbeaten Briton before losing a controversial decision in the non-title bout. On 9 March, Ngannou will face another Briton in Riyadh, as he boxes former champion Anthony Joshua.

And while “AJ” is Ngannou’s next boxing opponent, the “Predator”’s next MMA opponent will be Ferreira or Bader, depending on who wins the main event of the PFL vs Bellator card in Riyadh on Saturday.

The Saudi-funded PFL acquired Bellator in November, and its first event in the Gulf state will pit a number of PFL fighters against Bellator’s – with two of the bouts built around a ‘champion vs champion’ concept. Brazilian Ferreira, 34, holds the PFL heavyweight title, while American Bader, 40, is Bellator heavyweight champion. Bader previously held the Bellator light-heavyweight title as a dual-weight champion.

Ngannou said on Thursday (22 February): “They are both champions, and one of them is going to be a champ-champ. So, I think there wasn’t a better way to find an opponent for me, since I am a champion myself – just in case you have forgotten.”

Ngannou will take on Anthony Joshua in a boxing bout on 9 March (PA Wire)
Ngannou will take on Anthony Joshua in a boxing bout on 9 March (PA Wire)

The news comes one week after PFL founder and chairman Donn Davis hinted to The Independent that Ngannou was likely to face Bader or Ferreira next. Davis added: “I’m 100 per cent confident that Francis fights MMA for PFL – not just once, but several times […] I think Francis has an appetite to be a champion in boxing and to remain a champion in MMA.”

Due to Ngannou’s financial success in boxing and remarkable performance against Fury, some fans had speculated that he would not return to MMA.

Ngannou last fought in MMA in January 2022, outpointing former teammate Ciryl Gane to retain the UFC heavyweight title.