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What's next for Francis Ngannou?

Francis Ngannou rocked boxing on Saturday when he was defeated by Tyson Fury in a split decision that many observers felt should have gone the other way.

The former UFC heavyweight champion was taking part in his first boxing match but his performance has put the French-Cameroonian in a great position to earn some lucrative future fights, whether they are in the ring or the cage.

Here we take a look at what could be next for the 37-year-old fighter.

Performance against Fury should open doors

Few people gave Ngannou much hope against the Gypsy King in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, but it did not take long for him to make them take notice.

It was anticipated that Fury would comfortably take care of Ngannou, which was seen as a routine warm-up for a fight with Oleksandr Usyk at the end of the year, but Fury looked sluggish early on and was downed by a big left hook in the third round.

Ngannou went on to defy his inexperience as Fury struggled and there was plenty of surprise when the decision went against the debutant, but even in defeat he was philosophical, probably realising that there could be some more lucrative paydays on the horizon.

"I came up short," he said, "I will fight on, I will get better."

So we can definitely expect him to be back in the ring soon, so who might he be in line to challenge?

Fury rematch may be a longshot

Under normal circumstances - although when do they exist in the world of boxing? - Ngannou could perhaps look forward to a return match against Fury but at the moment that looks a remote possibility.

It would have been at the top of the agenda had the decision gone the other way, but the Fury camp are likely to be keen to put the whole episode behind them with a clash against Usyk in the diary for December.

Fury is 8/15 to win that bout with the unbeaten Ukrainian available to back at 6/4, but it now looks as if that showdown will be delayed.

The Gypsy King was shaken and battered after the fight and said that he needed a “long, hard break”, while promoter Frank Warren said he told Fury to go away and forget about boxing, so it is looking more likely that the big fight will now take place in the spring.

And there is little chance they will potentially sacrifice that deal if there is the possibility of Ngannou getting the edge this time, so it may be a while before Ngannou can get another shot at Fury, if he does at all.

Wilder and Joshua provide possible options

There is little chance that Ngannou will be downhearted though as some illustrious bouts beckon with clashes against Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder possibilities.

Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn was in Riyadh to see the fight and was very boisterous in his conclusion that the former UFC fighter had come out on top, suggesting that Fury performed like he was the one who hadn’t been in a boxing ring before.

Hearn said that a fight against Joshua could be a possibility and claimed that his man would win inside three rounds. 

He acknowledged that Ngannou’s performance will have increased the public interest in seeing him go up against some of the biggest names in the heavyweight division, so a clash with the former Olympic champion cannot be ruled out.

Meanwhile, negotiations with Wilder had already taken place before the fight at the weekend and what is interesting about that particular match-up is that it would be a two fight deal, seeing the pair battle in both the ring and the cage.

This would have a huge novelty value as it is rare for boxers to move into the mixed martial arts arena, but Wilder was up for the clash when he was interviewed about the prospect earlier in the year.

Return to the cage cannot be ruled out

Ngannou has a 17-3 record in MAA but left UFC and had his heavyweight championship taken away from him in January when he could not follow his dreams of also engaging in a boxing career.

He has since signed to the Professional Fighters League and it would be a coup for the organisation to have him back fighting in a cage, particularly if he had a high-profile clash against Wilder.

However, there is a PFL heavyweight championship to potentially fight for and he should be waiting for the winner of Renan Ferreira and Denis Goltsov, who are set to face off on 24th November in Washington.

But the options are all there and one thing that is beyond dispute is that Ngannou has blown his options wide open and he is set to make a lot of money.

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