Francis Ngannou targeting 2023 for return, boxing goals don’t depend on Tyson Fury


Francis Ngannou echoed the words of coach Eric Nicksick on Friday, revealing that a return in late 2022 is likely not an option as the UFC heavyweight champion continues to recover from March surgery to repair his right ACL and MCL following his latest title defense.

“I would think more like the beginning of next year [to return], because I’m five-and-a-half months post-surgery, and I’m not very strong on that knee yet,” Ngannou told ESPN ahead of UFC Paris. “And see how heavy I am, that’s something I really have to consider — my weight and this division and how it is. When I go back to Vegas in the U.S., I think I’m seeing the doctor next week or something like that, so I’m going to have his opinion and I just need to keep [doing] the physical therapy.

“They both have to be in [agreement] to when I should at least start training just to get in shape, then we’ll be [able] to consider a fight.”

Ngannou, 35, has been sidelined since January’s UFC 270 event, which saw him defeat UFC Paris headliner Ciryl Gane via unanimous decision in a title unification match.

“The Predator” said Friday that he is currently unable to train and has a lengthy road still ahead of him in order to get back into fighting shape.

” In the last seven months, I haven’t done much, so I’m sort of out of shape. It’s the worst I’ve been in my life,” Ngannou stated.

Nicksick, Ngannou’s head coach, recently told MMA Fighting that the team still covets a potential fight against Jon Jones, the former UFC light heavyweight champion who is expected to make his heavyweight debut before the end of 2022.

“The fight that makes the most sense is obviously Jon Jones,” Nicksick said. “That’s the fight we all want.”

But Ngannou’s future continues to be up in the air.

He has been in a much-publicized standoff with the UFC since his victory over Gane, and his management team at CAA have maintained their belief that Ngannou could enter into free agency at the start of 2023, regardless of whether he fights in the UFC again.

Ngannou has spoken openly of his desire to box and even made a surprise appearance in the ring following Tyson Fury’s victory over Dillian Whyte in April.

Fury’s status is still a question mark as well — the heavyweight champion has alternated between retiring and calling out opponents in recent months — but Ngannou reiterated on Friday that his goals in boxing will stay the same regardless of whether Fury is involved.

“My career doesn’t depend on Tyson Fury or anyone else,” Ngannou said. “My desire of boxing doesn’t depend on Tyson Fury. I will continue to box, regardless of whether Tyson Fury is still alive. A few boxing matches are still something that I want in my life, so I will continue to have conversations [about] about it.

” I don’t understand [if that’ll be in the UFC], that it all depends. Although we’ve not had any real talks, if UFC boxing is possible, it’s worth seeing how that plays out. But I am open to all options. What I know is this: I will do the damn boxing .”