Francis Ngannou’s MMA coach Eric Nicksick is anticipating his fighter’s return to MMA next month, once Ngannou has got his boxing match with Tyson Fury out of the way.
The former UFC heavyweight champion meets Fury on Saturday in Saudi Arabia in a novelty boxing match, which pairs the world heavyweight champion against an MMA athlete making his professional boxing debut.
“Yeah, I think we will take a month off,” said Nicksick of what will happen post-Fury. “Probably November, mid-December and by then I’d like to get him back into the gym right away, just because we haven’t been working on any of the wrestling or putting things together that he was doing so great up until the Ciryl Gane fight and he had a knee injury and that was the last time that he has actually really, really wrestled, so it would be good to get him back there and maybe fight some time in February.”
But Ngannou has Nicksick’s full support in trying to pull off the biggest upset in combat sport history. The Saudi event spelled the end of Ngannou’s relationship with the UFC, but those who have long-supported the Cameroon star, who has prepared in Las Vegas and includes Mike Tyson as a part-time member of his training team, are happy that Ngannou has this lucrative opportunity in Saudi Arabia against Fury.
“I love it,” Nicksick said. “This is everything he dreamed about from the day that I met him. I think he’s a guy that has been uber focused on his goals and what he wants to accomplish in combat sports. This is one of the first things he talked about when I met him for the first time four or five years ago, so I just couldn’t be happier for him. It’s something he’s always dreamed of.”
Does Nicksick think Ngannou will be competitive?
“It’s going to be interesting I think, especially stylistically,” Nicksick added. “I would imagine Tyson Fury [will be] using a lot of his footwork and defence in the first couple of rounds, trying to get Francis to maybe punch himself out a little bit. But I think that’s where his coaching and understanding how to know his volume and how to manage that…
“Because Francis has always been known as this power puncher, right? But over the years, not only in MMA, we’ve worked on patience, which you can see in the Stipe [Miocic] fight. We didn’t have to overthrow anything, just kind of play the game. ‘Touch, touch, touch, and power up’ and hopefully some of that translates into the boxing-side of it.”
Is Nicksick being presumptuous that he will get Ngannou back on the matt at all, let alone so soon? What if he lands that one big shock and changes boxing history?
“If that’s the case, I’m happy for whatever he does,” Nicksick said. “A rising tide raises all ships and whatever he wants to do… If he wins, then more power to him.”