LAS VEGAS: A two-fight deal against Francis Ngannou, that contains one bout in MMA and another in boxing, could be in American heavyweight Deontay Wilder's future.
"You know, there's some talks of that," PFL MMA President Ray Sefo told ProBox TV on Thursday at the Xtreme Couture fight club in Las Vegas. "But … until we sit down with Francis, and I know my team also has contacts to Deontay, we'll wait and see. When he's back and ready to go, we'll sit down with him and his team."
Since leaving the market-leading MMA firm UFC, Ngannou signed a deal with PFL which allowed him to compete in boxing matches like the recent one he took part in at Riyadh, in which he stunned the boxing community by knocking Tyson Fury to the floor and losing a decision by a single point.
Ngannou's ability to surprise Fury has seen him become an overnight sensation in boxing — making a rematch with Fury, a fight with Anthony Joshua, or Wilder, more likely.
"What he did was truly amazing," Sefo told ProBox TV and other reporters this week.
"It wasn’t just another MMA fighter boxing, and he wasn’t just fighting anybody. He was fighting the boxing heavyweight champion of the world. So, to see him do what he did was truly amazing because a lot of people doubted him.
"I personally thought he’d probably have one to five rounds to put Tyson Fury away. But when he dropped Tyson Fury, that also gave him a lot more confidence in what he was doing. He was so composed, he was patient, and the fact that he went 10 rounds with the heavyweight champion is truly remarkable.
"I’m so happy for Francis," Sefo said. "Everyone was saying, ‘Nah, he’s going to get outboxed.’ That didn’t happen. Francis was right there throughout the fight, and that fight could have easily gone his way.
"I mean, what, there was one point in it? In my opinion, he won, because nobody expected him to go 10 rounds with the heavyweight champion of the world. So, in my opinion, congrats, Francis. You did great, brother."
Wilder told PFL he's eager to crossover into MMA
Wilder has made frequent appearances at MMA promotions and facilities in recent years.
ProBox TV saw him at numerous Contender Series shows at the Apex last summer, and heard he'd trained at the UFC's Performance Institute at that time.
Earlier this year, at a PFL event, he even told PFL commentators and analysts including MMA legend Randy Couture that he'd thought about competing in an MMA arena.
"Even with Ngannou, we were talking about getting together," said Wilder in June.
"You always see the MMA guys crossing over [into boxing] but you never see the boxers crossing over, so I said I'm willing to make it more interesting for the fans and just the whole combat family as in a whole.
"I said why don't you come to my backyard, and after we handle business, I can come to yours and crossover and I really meant it. So things are still up in the air, but I have seen myself on this side of the field, you know. People will be very impressed on what I can do in my abilities to be here."
Couture's advice to Wilder would be to get grappling as quick as possible
Back at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas this week, ProBox TV asked Couture if he had any advice for Wilder, should he ever compete in the PFL SmartCage — especially if that were against Ngannou.
"He's got to start grappling and wrestling and learn how to protect himself if he gets taken down," Couture told us. "He needs to learn how to sprawl and counter-takedowns. That's exactly what Deontay needs to be looking at.
"He's immersing himself in an MMA gym somewhere, needs to be taking lumps, get submitted, figure out what this kicking thing is," he said. "The rules of engagement are different than in boxing, and you learn where you're in danger and where you're not. Keep fights standing, and use boxing, and there'll be people who will have a big problem [against him]."
PFL's live events business returns November 24 with PFL 10 — a grand finale which hands out $1 million checks to six winners from the 2023 season. The competition airs on ESPN+.