Coach: Francis Ngannou becomes ‘the baddest man ever on the planet’ with boxing championship

Francis Ngannou’s coach doesn’t think he has to choose between boxing and MMA.

The PFL fighter has already proven he can be the best heavyweight in MMA, having captured UFC gold three years ago with a brutal knockout of Stipe Miocic. On Friday, he can move one step closer to becoming the king of the boxing world if he pulls off an upset against British star Anthony Joshua.

This past October, Ngannou made his boxing debut and was one judges’ scorecard away from earning a decision against Tyson Fury, which would have turned the combat sports world on its head. Regardless, his spirited performance was enough to earn him a fight with Joshua, putting any return to cagefighting on hold for now.

Coach Dewey Cooper sees a path for Ngannou to continue competing in both fields, a path that could lead Ngannou to athletic immortality.

“I’d do them both [boxing and MMA],” Cooper said on The MMA Hour. “A fight’s a fight’s a fight. It doesn’t matter which way he wants to do, I would love to be a part of it. So if he does MMA, cool. If he does boxing, cool.

“The one thing I will say, Your Excellency, Turki Alalshikh said the winner of Joshua and Ngannou will face the winner of Fury and Usyk, so you already know it’s gotta be one more fight. To fight for the unified belt, all four of the belts in heavyweight boxing, is something that few guys do. So after he takes care of Joshua, I’m sure his next fight will be boxing to go for those undisputed titles and be the first man to be undisputed heavyweight champion and UFC champion. Then, no one can deny he’s the baddest man ever on the planet.”

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The sight of Ngannou standing across the ring from Fury and then Joshua in the span of five months would have once been considered inconceivable. His run with the UFC ended when the two parties could not come to terms on a new contract (one sticking point for Ngannou was that he wanted the freedom to pursue boxing opportunities, which was a no-go for the promotion), and after signing a deal with the PFL to serve not only as a fighter and an executive, Ngannou put his boxing plans fully into motion.

Cooper was along for much of the ride, and even he admits that such lofty goals seemed out of reach when Ngannou first discussed them.

“He was talking about doing boxing even before he beat Stipe,” Cooper said. “That was always a goal, but doing it, it was like, ‘How?’ We know how stringent the UFC contracts are, etc., so he talked about it a long time. Once he became champion, when he stopped Stipe, then he really started talking about it. Like, ‘Before I retire, I want to box.’

“Him and Tyson Fury were going back and forth on Twitter for years. They talked crap about each other and baited each other for several years. So when this happened, I wasn’t surprised. The world was surprised. When he left UFC, I knew that he would end up boxing and I knew that it was going to be a big fight. Nothing small for him. But he talked about this for years and it finally happened, it’s crazy the way he projected it into the universe and somehow it came true when it was a very bleak projection then.”

PFL would undoubtedly love to have its marquee signing step into the SmartCage sooner rather than later, especially with an opponent already waiting for Ngannou. Renan Ferreira won the Ngannou sweepstakes with a 21-second knockout of Ryan Bader at February’s PFL vs. Bellator event and has already said he plans to wait for Ngannou rather than participate in the league’s upcoming heavyweight season.

As far as Cooper is concerned, Ferreira is more than worthy of being the man to welcome Ngannou back to MMA. He’ll just have to be patient.

“Been watching [Ferreira] a long time,” Cooper said. “We follow each other on Instagram, he’s a sweetheart of a guy. Any fight of Francis’ excites me, any fight, especially a guy like him who loves to strike. The fights that [Ferreria] lost in PFL, the guy just took him down, so of course, any fight excites, but right now all I can say, that’s kind of difficult to get excited about when you’re fighting Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua.”