Francis Ngannou’s obliteration of the greatest heavyweight in history has sent reverberations across the MMA world.
The KO win and incredibly composed performance against Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 capped a remarkable journey to the top.
Ngannou has worked tirelessly to fulfil his dream and now boasts the moniker every heavyweight wants, the ‘baddest man on the planet’.
So having reached his Everest, where does the ‘Predator’ go from here?
Francis Ngannou has the world at his feet having become UFC heavyweight champion
STIPE MIOCIC TRILOGY
If anyone is owed an immediate rematch to win their title back, it’s Miocic.
In many ways he’s not who the UFC want as the poster boy for heavyweight stardom but in terms of achievement, there is no question he’s the greatest in the division’s history.
It is easy to forget that in the first fight between them, the American dominated from start to finish. He evaded the power punches for 25 minutes and showed Ngannou what elite wrestling looks like.
Of course, the rematch went the other way in emphatic fashion but Miocic himself knows where he went wrong.
Stipe Miocic says he knows what went wrong and is not likely to head off into retirement
He reflected: ‘Unfortunately, I deviated from game plan. I felt great coming into the second round, I saw it was beginning to go as planned. He was getting very winded, and I came in overzealous and unprotected.
‘I wasn’t in a good posture to take the hit. He saw the opening, and did what any great fighter would have done. That was my error that I accept, it won’t happen again.’
‘Lastly, I’d like to congratulate Francis Ngannou and his team on a well earned victory.
‘Saturday night was your night, enjoy your victory. For now, I’m going to enjoy the down time, spend some time with my family, and welcome our son into the world this summer… stay tuned. God bless.’
Miocic has a two-month medical suspension but may well want a trilogy fight
Some have hinted at retirement but nothing in that statement suggests Miocic is going to hang up the gloves soon.
He defended the heavyweight title five times, came out of top in a trilogy against future Hall of Famer Daniel Cormier and if Miocic wants a third fight, it would be incredibly harsh to deny him.
He has earned a third showdown but in MMA money talks and there is only one big money fight on the table for Ngannou now.
Nobody will have been a more interested observer on Saturday night than ‘Bones’.
He is moving up to heavyweight to complete his legacy and remove all doubt that he is the greatest mixed martial artist of all time.
Miocic is the more well-rounded fighter and would have caused a variety of problems.
Ngannou poses one threat, but it is a substantial one. Jones has faced power punchers before and has the wrestling pedigree to fancy his chances.
Jon Jones has expressed publicly his frustration with UFC president Dana White
And crucially, this is the fight fans want to see. Jones is the pantomime villain, Ngannou the inspirational champion who pulled himself out of poverty to riches and glory.
The narrative is one the UFC would hardly even need to market.
The major obstacle to this marquee match-up is that Jones is again at loggerheads with his paymasters.
He wants mega-money for a mega-fight and recently took to Twitter asking to be cut by the company if they’re unwilling to meet his demands.
Jones wants the Ngannou fight but he also wants to be paid what he feels he deserves
Ngannou sympathises, telling ESPN: ‘I think he wants to do some challenge, but I think he’s at a point in his career where he wants his big payday.
‘Makes sense, you can’t argue with that. He did it, he deserves it. He’s the greatest pound-for-pound guy for so long, so you can’t deny anything in this sport to Jon Jones.’
Ngannou wants to fight twice more this year, preferably in August and December so if the disagreement between Jones and the UFC cannot be resolved, they will look for the next cab on the rank…
Nobody, I mean nobody, wants to see a replay of Lewis’ first fight with Ngannou.
They stunk the place out, both wary of each other’s KO power and ultimately the Cameroon fighter lost a decision.
The fight came in the wake of Ngannou’s defeat by Miocic and realisation that he is mortal after all.
But much has changed since then. Lewis has been on the rampage with four wins on the spin to mirror Ngannou’s upward trajectory.
Derrick Lewis is hugely popular and could capitalise if Jones and the UFC cannot agree terms
He’s also one of the most popular fighters in the UFC with fans and has a huge online following.
There would be almost no chance of the fight going to ground but the snoozefest from 2018 might mean the UFC are in no rush to see a repeat.
Ngannou, however, wants revenge and is looking to fight Lewis after Jones.
So if Miocic wants some time away and Jones remains at war with the UFC, Lewis might skip to the front of the queue.
Ngannou told ESPN: ‘I think we’ll have this fight that never really happened. I will have to give the fans what they deserve.’
ONES TO WATCH
Up and coming French star Ciryl Gane is now ranked No 4 in the division and remains unbeaten.
He only has eight fights under his belt and is relatively untested but could be a couple of wins from an opportunity.
Keep an eye out for Tom Aspinall. The British heavyweight is ranked No 13 after his win over Andrei Arlovski and will need at least two more wins for a fight with Ngannou but many feel he has the all round game to reach the very top.
Tom Aspinall is one for the future and will not be next but could face Ngannou in the future