UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou has appeared to all but rule out returning to action before the end of the year as he continues to rehab after undergoing knee surgery in March.
“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. “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.”
That echoes the thoughts of his coach Erik Nicksick, who told MMAfighting.com that they were targeting an early 2023 comeback, while adding that Jon Jones was at the top of their list of potential opponents.
“The fight that makes the most sense is obviously Jon Jones,” Nicksick said. “That’s the fight we all want.”
However, Ngannou’s future in the UFC still remains shrouded in doubt due to a stand-off between the fighter and the promotion over the terms of a new contract when his current deal expires at the end of the year.
And Ngannou continues to state that he wants any future deal to include the right to also take boxing matches, something that’s known to be a major stumbling block from the UFC’s perspective.
“I’m still going to do that. I still want a boxing match in my career, a few boxing matches, and that’s something I’m going to engage in conversations [about] when it comes the moment.
“I don’t know [if that’ll be in the UFC], it depends. We haven’t had a real talk, but if boxing can happen in the UFC as well — we haven’t had the real talk, let’s see how it plays. I’m open to any option. But what I do know for sure is that I’m going to do that damn boxing.”