Fernand Lopez: Ngannou needs three years of training for Fury
Francis Ngannou's former trainer discusses the UFC heavyweight champion's chances in a potential boxing match against Tyson Fury.
Francis Ngannou’s former trainer Fernand Lopez says the UFC heavyweight champion would need to quit MMA for three years and focus exclusively on boxing to have any chance in a fight against Tyson Fury.
Ngannou and Fury have been trading jabs over social media after the Brit hinted at a possible fight in the future between the two baddest men in their respective sports.
Ngannou won the UFC heavyweight championship with a second-round knockout against Stipe Miocic in March 2021, while Fury has held the WBC and The Ring heavyweight titles since his first victory over Deontay Wilder in February 2020.
A champion-vs-champion fight between the pair would undoubtedly be a major pay-per-view draw and give Ngannou the biggest pay day of his career to date, but Lopez – who introduced the Cameroonian to the UFC and trained him until they split in 2018 – believes it would take a huge amount of boxing training for the MMA star to be capable of challenging Fury.
“I think the fight makes sense for Francis because he thinks he can cash out,” Lopez says. “There’s also something there for Tyson Fury - he doesn't care that it’s not a competitive fight, he just wants to make money and make some news.
“It would take at least three years for Francis Ngannou to be competitive from a boxing standpoint with Tyson Fury, and I mean three years only dedicated to boxing.
“Realistically he would have to stop everything else and probably do nothing else for three years, only boxing. No grappling, nothing else. The way that his body and muscles are built, it will not allow him to keep throwing punches after the third round.”
There is plenty of history between Lopez and Ngannou.
When Ngannou was 26 and living on the streets of Paris, Lopez brought the heavyweight into his MMA Factory gym in Paris and introduced him to the sport, providing him with some MMA gear, along with a place to train and sleep.
The pair worked together for five years, but an acrimonious split has seen Lopez end up training fellow heavyweight Cyril Gane, who faces Ngannou in a title fight at UFC 270. Ngannou is currently the +105 underdog in the sports betting odds.
Lopez perhaps knows Ngannou’s game better than anyone else on the planet, and he believes that the 35-year-old may lack the endurance to ever go toe-to-toe with Fury, should they one day meet in a boxing ring.
“I’m not sure Francis can ever challenge the stamina or endurance of Tyson Fury. All he can do is have a high defense, be elusive, close footwork, change direction,” Lopez says.
"But eventually Tyson will wear him down, get him tired, work the body and then go up with the uppercut, and sooner or later Francis will give up because of the volume, because of the pressure shots and he will just go down. I don’t see how he can win the match, this is an opportunity for him to cash out.
“I’m not sure if you’re a UFC fighter it’s worth letting it all go and have three years of steady boxing training - how would you live your life, what would be your income? And after three years you may be competitive enough to stand there and keep throwing punches.
“We are not expecting anything brilliant, Francis is not a boxer. You train a lot to be a boxer. Boxing needs dedication, boxing needs sacrifice, you need years and years to train. So we know the outcome of that fight. The question is how much Francis Ngannou can make a lot of money, because he only has one shot. Objectively speaking, he cannot think about having a boxing career because his boxing skill will not be enough for him to become a boxer.”
Lopez also doubts whether Ngannou can gain the leverage to step away from the UFC for a boxing match.
His fight against Gane is the last on his current contract, although winning that bout would see Ngannou’s deal automatically extended by either one or three fights.
‘The Predator’ has refused to sign a new deal to this point and wants a clause included that would allow him to pursue a big-money boxing match.
But Lopez says those demands “make no sense”, and believes there is no chance of the UFC sanctioning such a deal.
“Francis Ngannou wants to move over to boxing but that can only happen if he’s the champ,” he says. If he leaves the UFC and he’s not the champion, no matter which company he wants to go to, it won’t look good. We have to keep that in mind.
“You can’t ask for a new contract with a clause that allows you to go boxing, it makes no sense. And you cannot impose this on the UFC now you are a big name just because you want to cash in - those are not the terms of the agreement.”