The history is not great for MMA fighters transitioning to professional boxing.
There have been a few here and there who have been able to notch wins, but at a high level, it’s a rare scene. But Saturday in Saudi Arabia, former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou crossed over to the boxing world and gave WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury one of his toughest career fights. Ngannou was defeated in a close, split decision, but many think he did enough to beat Fury.
Eric Nicksick, one of Ngannou’s main coaches, believes Ngannou proved to the MMA world that it is possible to compete against high-level boxers.
“I think it’s huge,” Nicksick told MMA Junkie Radio on Sunday. “It’s that 4-minute mile mentality where the guy that breaks the 4-minute mile does the impossible feat and then when somebody does, everyone knows they have an opportunity to do the same thing. I think more and more MMA guys look for this opportunity as well.
“The first thing I wrote Sean Strickland: ‘Ready to move to boxing?’ And he’s like, ‘Damn right. That’s all I do (is) spar boxers, anyway.’ I think that Francis paved that way and showed we are capable of competing, and not only competing, winning and putting it together at a high level. I’m proud of him, he kind of laid that groundwork.”
Ngannou’s showing on Saturday was a big shock for the combat sports world. Few expected Ngannou to go the distance with Fury and much less be competitive. For Nicksick, this is just one of the many things Ngannou has overcome in his career.
“Nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to Francis and the level of expectation he carries,” Nicksick said. “We love that – the doubt and everything that we’re told we can’t do. It does motivate us, and I know it motivates him. This is something that he’s had in his mind for such a long time now. For it to come to fruition, there’s a moment in the ring where Tyson was walking in, and I’m just taking it all in, looking at the event itself, and Francis looks over at me and just has this big-ass smile on his face. I’m like, ‘Dude, you did this.’ Literally, before he fought, like, ‘You did this. This is on you.’ I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
For more on the matchup, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for Fury vs. Ngannou.