‘Francis Ngannou is the king of combat sports – he can be an MMA & boxing champ’

Dan Hardy was one of millions mesmerised by Francis Ngannou's awe-inspiring performance against Tyson Fury in the 'Battle of the Baddest'.

The former UFC star was in Riyadh to watch the clash between the sporting behemoths and was front and centre when the ex-UFC heavyweight champion lost a controversial split-decision to the 'Gyspy King'. Hardy – who fought 10 times for the UFC between 2008 and 2012 – thought Ngannou won the fight as did many who watched the star-studded event.

The 41-year-old exclusively told Daily Star Sport that the MMA superstar's performance just shows what he could do in the boxing heavyweight division as he admitted he's competitive among the very elite of the division as he showed against Fury.

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"He's definitely a lot more competitive with those guys now, with Deontay Wilder, they're both thunderous punchers so that's a shoot-out and I don't know who I'd give that advantage to," Hardy said. "You have to anticipate that Ngannou is going to be looking like a better version of himself the next time anyways, I'm expecting a further improvement from him.

'The Outlaw' claimed that Anthony Joshua – despite his resume as a former two-time unified heavyweight champion – would get "rattled" by Ngannou's overwhelming power. "I don't think Anthony Joshua deals with Ngannou's power at all, I think he'll get rattled and anxious by his strength and power."

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The sky is the limit for Ngannou, 37, who confirmed he'll return to MMA in 2024 with the PFL, who he signed with last year as Hardy, who assumed the position of Director of Fighter Operations for PFL Europe, said 'The Predator' is no doubt at the centre of something special in sports.

"It's incredible for the PFL, Francis Ngannou is the king of combat sports right now," he declared. "[Conor] McGregor and [Jon] Jones both have lost a bit of steam at the same time that Ngannou's picking up a hell of a lot of steam with the Fury fight.

"You can now legitimately look at him and say he can be a boxing and MMA champion, imagine him with the WBC belt on one shoulder and the PFL title on the other, that is something we've never seen before and I just can't count Francis Ngannou out from doing that."

While Ngannou's next move is currently not yet known, Hardy said the PFL are right behind the heavyweight in what he wants to conquer next. "Something that is worth remembering is that Francis is signed with the PFL – not signed to the PFL. He is his own man, we work alongside him, we want to support him in whatever he's doing and absolutely we want to see him in the SmartCage but we also want to see him achieve whatever he's capable of."

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