PFL announces Francis Ngannou will fight Renan Ferreira vs. Ryan Bader winner; no timeline given

(Editor’s note: Story updated after PFL’s announcement following Ngannou’s interview on ESPN.)

The stakes in the champion-vs.-champion showdown between Ryan Bader and Renan Ferreira just got a whole lot bigger after the PFL announced on Thursday that the winner will take on former UFC heavyweight champ Francis Ngnnou when he returns to MMA.

“The PFL is excited to announce Francis Ngannou’s return to MMA in the PFL PPV division will be against the winner of the PFL Champion vs. Bellator Champion heavyweight superfight between Renan Ferreira and Ryan Bader,” PFL CEO Peter Murray said in a statement. “Francis is a true combat sports icon with a global fan base and appeal. We, along with the rest of the MMA world, will be watching to see who his first opponent will be, Ferreira or Bader.”

Reigning PFL champ Ferreira and Bellator champ Bader headline Saturday’s PFL vs. Bellator: Champions card (ESPN+ pay-per-view) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and now the two big men know what’s on the line aside from bragging rights.

The announcement came about an hour after Ngannou appeared on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” Ngannou, who’s preparing for a March 8 boxing match with Anthony Joshua, said he considered the Ferreira-Bader winner his “potential opponent” when he returns to the cage.

“(That’s) my potential opponent, because I think the winner of this is going to be the guy I fight in my MMA return when I return,” Ngannou said. “… First of all, both are champions. They’re going to be champ-champ. So I think there wasn’t a better way to find an opponent for me, since I’m a champion myself, just in case you have forgotten.”

The PFL’s announcement did not include a date or even a timeline for Ngannou’s return as a win over Joshua figures to open a whole new set of lucrative opportunities in boxing, including an immediate title fight or a rematch with Tyson Fury. That scenario could delay Ngannou’s PFL debut indefinitely, although Ngannou indicated he does intend to still compete in MMA.

“It’s my intention to return to (MMA). When exactly, I think all depends on March 8. Everything depends on March 8,” Ngannou said. “… I haven’t finished my MMA career. I just wanted to chase my dream in boxing. Obviously, I can enjoy both and combine whenever the opportunity is there. I’m not done with MMA. I have an intention to come back and fight and put on some shows.

“… That doesn’t change anything. I think on March 8, whatever happens, the fight is happening. … I take out Anthony Joshua on March 8. Then, I have an opportunity for the undisputed right away to fight. I think it’s a great opportunity not to miss out.”

Ngannou, 37, made his boxing debut in October against Fury, whom he dropped and nearly defeated in a close split decision loss. The fight was his first combat sports competition since he departed the UFC as the promotion’s heavyweight champion in early 2023. Ngannou hasn’t competed in MMA since January 2022.

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for PFL vs. Bellator: Champions.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie