UFC Heavyweight Champion Francis Ngannou is currently recovering from major knee surgery and will probably be sidelined for 2023,. However, it seems that the division could continue in Ngannou’s absence.
UFC President Dana White said Saturday that the promotion would likely include an interim title for heavyweights with Ngannou out of commission.
“It is very possible [we crown an interim champion],” White stated at UFC London’s post-fight press conference. “We find out this week [how long he’s out].
“If nine months is true, if it’s going to take nine months for him to get cleared to start training again. That’s almost a year before he would fight. So yeah, we would do an interim title.”
Ngannou had knee surgery in Los Angeles on Friday. The reigning champion UFC fighter revealed that he underwent a complete ACL reconstruction and additional work to his MCL.
Marquel Martin, Ngannou’s manager, told MMA Fighting after the procedure that Ngannou would probably be out “9 for 10 the following months .”
Ngannou delayed surgery to March due to his plans for a return trip to Cameroon after he beat Ciryl Gane in January’s UFC 270.. By all accounts, that means Ngannou will be out until at least early 2023, which seems to coincide with White’s estimations and plans to eventually introduce an interim title.
If that happens, it will be the second time the UFC hands out an interim belt during Ngannou’s reign. Three months ago, Ngannou defeated Stipe Miocic in 2021, to claim the title. The UFC was looking for an event in Houston in August that would be televised live.
Ngannou wanted to postpone his return to September 2021,, but the UFC decided that it would be best to continue with the card as is and offer a temporary title between Gane Lewis and Derrick Lewis.
That culminated in Ngannou unifying the belts with a unanimous decision win over Gane.
Finally, a interim title could be introduced to set up the UFC for the future in case Ngannou is not able to agree to a new contract. The 35-year-old heavyweight champion is believed that have fought out his UFC deal with the win over Gane. He is due to end his contract in December. This would make him an unrestricted agent.
White is determined to find common ground with Ngannou for a new agreement, but the sides are not yet at an agreement.