When a deal for the undisputed title fight between world heavyweight boxing champions Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk was announced, some saw that as disrespectful toward Francis Ngannou, the former UFC champ who already had a mega-crossover bout with Fury set for Saturday.
After all, it’s rare for any fighter – in boxing or mixed martial arts – to schedule two matchups at once, never mind a superstar like Fury, who competes in a volatile division. Agreeing to face Usyk before finding out what happens against a power puncher like Ngannou could legitimately be viewed as Fury not taking this weekend’s fight in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, seriously.
But Ngannou says he didn’t care about the announcement – because, in his mind, Fury-Ngannou is a bigger deal than Fury-Usyk.
“Some people asked me if I was frustrated about it, if I was irritated about it,” Ngannou said Monday on “The MMA Hour.”
“(Fury is) fighting me first. We are getting the way bigger fight. I don’t really care what he is going to do after with Usyk or whoever is going to do it. I’m having the biggest stage here. Even though that fight (is what) the boxing community will consider the most legendary fight because it’s an (undisputed) title, I’m having the big stage. It can’t be as big as this, no matter what. So why would I be upset about something that is smaller than what I have?”
Fury is a -1200 betting favorite as of Monday, with Ngannou sitting at +650. And rightfully so. Fury is the top heavyweight in boxing, and Ngannou – who left the UFC in January as the reigning heavyweight champion – has never competed in that sport. If Ngannou beats Fury, it’ll arguably be the biggest upset in combat sports history.
When asked if he trusts that Fury is taking the boxing match seriously, Ngannou said he “better take it seriously” because “I’ve been taking it very seriously.” Ngannou has been training with heavyweight legend Mike Tyson ahead of the fight.
Ngannou, who weighed around the high 250s or low 260s in his recent UFC bouts, said he expects to weigh in at 270 pounds on Friday.
“I’m really excited to see how good I can do out there,” Ngannou said. “It’s something that I’m looking forward to. But I’m going to be fighting the world champion, the boxing world champion, the No. 1. And if you’re not nervous at that moment, that means something is wrong with you. That means you are not aware of the danger that is in front of you. I’m very aware of who Tyson Fury is.”
When pressed on whether he thinks Fury is looking past him, Ngannou didn’t answer the question – but he did make an unexpected admission.
“I’m looking past him, too,” Ngannou said. “Do you think my life is gonna stop after this fight? No. Do you think my career is gonna end after this fight? No. I have a future after this fight.”