The UFC recently reached out to heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou’s manager, Eric Nicksick, asking who Ngannou would love to face next.
Over the weekend, Nicksick stated on MMA Junkie Radio that he had discussed his desire to see Ngannou fight Jon Jones in the first quarter of 2023 with an anonymous UFC executive.
“A UFC exec called and basically said, ‘Hey, what is your ideal timeline, and what is your ideal matchup?’” Nicksick said.
“Does it matter what my opinion is? No, but it is nice that they called and asked. I said ideally I would want March, and ideally I would want Jon Jones. The person that called agreed 1 million percent that this is what (the UFC) would like, as well. That is what Francis would like. They’re calling to figure out timeline on injury and how long I would need to get him ready.”
Ngannou, who has a 17-3 record in mixed martial arts and a 12-2 record in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, is recovering from knee surgery he underwent in the first half of this year. After a disagreement, he and the UFC have not been able to settle on terms for a new deal. After being dissatisfied with his pay and his inability to box, Ngannou threatened not to return until his demands were granted. The current status of Ngannou’s contract negotiations are unclear.
Nicksick and Ngannou, meantime, have been coordinating their efforts toward a comeback to competition.
“We’re hitting pads and doing stuff on the bags, but I mean essentially that’s what we were doing in our last four weeks of training camp for Gane anyway,” Nicksick said.
While Ngannou gets well, Jones (26-1 MMA, 20-1 UFC) is expected to return in December to face former heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic. Nicksick, however, is rooting for Jones to make his heavyweight debut against Ngannou, even though it would be almost three years since Jones’ last fight.
“I don’t want Jon Jones to be able to take a fight before us,” Nicksick said.
“I want him to have to figure everything out in the cage with Francis, not go fight Stipe and maybe win a decision and then go back to the drawing board and go, ‘OK, here’s the things I need to fix and get better at’ and then come out a better version.
“Where Jon Jones is so good is that he gets those reps. He understands, ‘OK, I can fix this, I could fix that.’ He’s not actually a guy who’s gonna walk around at heavyweight. He’s building himself up to fight at heavyweight. He’s adding muscle to a frame that naturally isn’t a heavyweight frame. So that muscle is gonna command a certain amount of oxygen and cardio.”