Hannah Rankin: Scottish fighter is open to MMA crossover but wants WBC boxing crown first

Hannah Rankin v Ema Kozin - light-middleweight

Venue: AO Arena, Manchester Date: Saturday, 18 November

Coverage: Follow text commentary on BBC Sport website & app from 20:00 GMT

The line between boxing and mixed martial arts is becoming finer by the month.

Hannah Rankin, who fights for the vacant WBC and WBO light-middleweight titles against Ema Kozin in Manchester on Saturday, could be the next to cross it.

Last month, former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou stunned the world when he put WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury on the canvas in Saudi Arabia.

Ngannou, taking part in his first-ever professional boxing contest, lost a narrow decision against the undefeated Fury but he sent shockwaves through the sport.

But while many former mixed martial artists have stepped into the world of boxing, few have made the move in the opposite direction. Rankin hints she might buck that trend.

"It's not an idea that I haven't flirted with, I think it would be really good fun," she told BBC Sport.

The Scot, 33, trained in a variety of mixed martial arts disciplines before taking up boxing and a crossover fight with Bellator featherweight champion Cris Cyborg has previously been on the agenda.

"I started in taekwondo, and before I went into boxing I was doing Thai boxing and I've been on the mat doing jiu-jitsu.

"There was talk of me going to do a crossover in the pandemic to face Cris Cyborg - there was potential that we would box and then do another fight in the cage.

"I always say to people that I do really miss kicking people, that was a really satisfying part for me. It's not a crazy idea to think I might cross over into the cage - never say never."

For now, Rankin's eyes are firmly fixed on returning to the top of the boxing world.

'I couldn't be more ready'

The Scot won the WBA and IBO light-middleweight belts after beating Maria Lindberg in 2021, but she lost the titles following a unanimous decision defeat against Terri Harper in 2022.

Rankin, who returned to winning ways with a dominant victory against Logan Holler in March, "would love the chance" to rematch British rival Harper, but recognises she needs to put her hands on the WBC belt before that dream becomes a reality.

The WBC light-middleweight title became available after Natasha Jonas opted to move down to welterweight and became a two-weight world champion earlier this year.

Rankin previously held the WBC Silver middleweight belt - it was her first title in the professional ranks in 2018 - and wants to "turn it gold" this weekend.

"I'm so ready for this fight, I couldn't be more ready," says Rankin.

"I'm absolutely buzzing that I'm getting the opportunity to fight for the WBC [title]. The WBC Silver was my first proper professional title early on in my career and I always promised myself I was going to get the world title.

"This is me about to complete a personal promise to myself."

Kozin has lost just once in her 25-fight career - a unanimous decision defeat against undisputed middleweight champion Claressa Shields in 2022 - and has 12 knockout victories on her record.

The 27-year-old Slovenian has since recorded back-to-back wins to earn a shot at the vacant light-middleweight title.

Rankin wants to use platform to push for change

Amanda Serrano (left) throws a punch at Danila Ramos (right)
Seven-weight champion Amanda Serrano (left) won all 12 rounds in her 36-minute bout against Danila Ramos (right)

Saturday's world title fight between Rankin and Kozin will take place over 10 rounds, with each of those lasting for two minutes.

Meanwhile, Nick Ball and Isaac Dogboe, who top the bill in Manchester, are scheduled for 12 three-minute rounds when they compete in a final eliminator for a shot at the WBC featherweight champion Rey Vargas.

The push for parity in men's and women's boxing is gathering pace, although the WBC is yet to get on board.

Amanda Serrano and Danila Ramos made history in October when they became the first women since 2007 to fight 12 three-minute rounds - Serrano coming out on top to retain her featherweight titles.

Serrano only had her WBO, WBA and IBF titles on the line against Ramos with the WBC refusing to sanction the bout, citing "health and safety" concerns.

Rankin is an advocate for the three-minute rounds, feeling it would suit her style "perfectly", but believes incremental steps might be the best path.

"I think two-minute rounds are just exciting to watch, however, I do believe we need 12 two-minute rounds if we are going to stick to that length," Rankin said.

"We need 12 rounds at the world title stage, I think that would be the next best step forward.

"Hopefully I can speak to the WBC about that when I become champion, because when you're a champion you can push for these things just like Amanda Serrano has done."