UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou has hailed "inspirational" football legend Cristiano Ronaldo after the pair met in Saudi Arabia over the weekend.
Ngannou recently left the UFC without losing his world title, forcing the promotion to make a new title bout despite many fans disputing who is the true champion. And he has been spending his time as a free agent travelling, visiting Saudi Arabia where he met with Ronaldo, who recently signed with Al-Nassr in Riyadh.
The pair were seen in Instagram posts squaring off as well as joking around and laughing, with both men sharing messages on their social media pages expressing how much they enjoyed the meeting. Ronaldo is a known fight fan, having spent time with Conor McGregor in 2016 as he prepared for his rematch with Nate Diaz.
"Great to catch up with world champion Francis Ngannou today," Ronaldo wrote in an Instagram post to his half-a-billion followers. Ngannou responded with a comment under that post, writing: "Great chatting with you and thank you for your kind words. very inspirational!" The champion also captioned his own post "Great talking with the GOAT in Riyadh today. Very inspirational!"
Ngannou now appears to be heading towards a boxing debut, although there will be aggressive pursuits to bring him back to the cage from Bellator and PFL. Both have strong ties to boxing, with broadcaster Showtime airing Bellator events and PFL having recently inked a deal with Jake Paul and his manager Nakisa Bidarian, who run Most Valuable Promotions.
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The hard-hitting heavyweight wants to fight the world's best boxers, naming particularly Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury as potential opponents. Fury has indicated that he would be interested in doing a bout under hybrid rules, where boxing's traditional rule set is brought into a cage and the pair wear 4oz gloves, with Mike Tyson stepping in as a special referee.
"I still want to achieve something in boxing and I want to stay in MMA as well," Ngannou told the MMA Hour. "I discovered MMA first in my life and I feel like I have some mileage to give in my sport. In a perfect world, I go out there get some boxing match then get some MMA, depending on the challenges that are out there. If they are out there, I want to fight the top guys in boxing.
"I don't know, I think Fury has retired and come back. I don't know where Fury is right now, but now it is time. Before, we could not do anything concrete beyond the social media stuff. Whatever it is, if it is with Tyson Fury, I will take it. I have no problem doing boxing with 4oz gloves, we will figure it out. Tyson Fury or Anthony Joshua would be my first ideal opponent."