Ryan Bader, the current Bellator heavyweight champion, has a message for Francis Ngannou: he wants to fight.
In a recent interview with The Schmo, Bader stated that Ngannou is one of the biggest names in the heavyweight division and that a fight between the two would be a "big, big fight." Ngannou is currently a free agent after his contract with the UFC expired, and Bader believes that Bellator would be the perfect place for the two to face off.
Bader has been on a roll since joining Bellator in 2017, winning the light heavyweight title and then moving up to heavyweight to win that championship as well. He currently holds a record of 31-7 and is considered one of the top heavyweights in the world.
Ngannou left the UFC because he allegedly declined a chance to be the highest-paid heavyweight in the company's history, as per UFC President Dana White. The former UFC heavyweight champion intends to finally pursue his long-held passion of being a boxer, however, Bellator heavyweight champion Bader wishes to welcome him if he decides to return to mixed martial arts.
“If he turned that down with the UFC and all that, I think he’s going to box,” Bader told The Schmo. “You know, a lot of these guys get away from MMA, but they don’t have Tyson Fury calling them out, and he does. Bellator, we’d love to have him. (I) would love to fight him. So, it’s one of those things. We’ll see where he goes. Do I think he goes back into MMA? I don’t know. I really think he’s going to box. But if he does come to MMA, I’m the guy with the belt and we’ll be fighting.”
At Bellator 290 on Saturday, Bader defeated retired veteran Fedor Emelianenko once more via first-round TKO to earn his third title defense. Ngannou hasn't engaged in combat in almost a year. In January 2022, he defeated Ciryl Gane in his last outing at UFC 270 which broke the French’s unbeaten run in promotion in his first title fight. Ngannou is preparing to make a comeback this year despite still being a free agent after having knee surgery just after the bout.
A fight between Bader and Ngannou would be a true heavyweight showdown, with both fighters bringing their unique styles to the cage. Bader is known for his wrestling and ground-and-pound, while Ngannou is a knockout artist. It would be a battle of the wrestler vs. the striker, and fans would no doubt be excited to see who would come out on top.
Bellator President Scott Coker has also expressed interest in bringing Ngannou to the promotion, and a fight between Bader and Ngannou would be a huge addition to the Bellator heavyweight division.