4 minutes read

WBC Ignores Plethora Of Active And Winning Heavyweights To Rank Part-time MMA Fighter Francis Ngannou In Its Top 10

WBC Ignores Plethora Of Active And Winning Heavyweights To Rank Part-time MMA Fighter Francis Ngannou In Its Top 10 featured image
RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA - OCTOBER 28: Francis Ngannou looks on prior to the Heavyweight fight between Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou at Boulevard Hall on October 28, 2023 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

The WBC has shown little respect toward any of the competing heavyweights vying for a place within the sport. Francis Ngannou, despite his own obligations to the PFL, is poised to claim the #10 spot in the WBC’s heavyweight rankings, regardless of the likelihood that he won’t stay there long, as his immediate future appears tied to MMA.

In an interview with IFL TV, WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman cited his organization’s rules to explain Francis Ngannou’s (0-1, 0 KO’s) #10 ranking.

The WBC criteria for rankings, among many other things, include the activity of a boxer or an athlete in an Olympic scenario in amateur boxing and in other combat sports,” said Sulaiman.

Ngannou was a heavyweight champion in another sport, and he knocked down Fury and lost a split decision. Who can question that?

According to the WBC’s rules, any athlete successful in their combat sport seems to be able to enter the WBC’s rankings at their discretion based on whom they fought and their performance in that bout.

WBC Ignores Plethora Of Active And Winning Heavyweights To Rank Part-time MMA Fighter Francis Ngannou In Its Top 10 image 1
Article 6.5 of the WBC’s “Rules and Regulations.”

Francis Ngannou’s October 28 split-decision loss to Tyson Fury (34-0-1, 21 KO’s) has apparently warranted him a position in the WBC’s top 10, with his former status as UFC heavyweight champion also contributing to this decision. Despite boxing being one of many facets that MMA fighters rely on, it seems insufficient for any other heavyweight to have spent their entire fighting career in this field and worked their way up the ladder.

Not to say that Ngannou has shown himself to be a bad boxer, but the match between Ngannou and Fury would not have been officially sanctioned as a professional bout had it not been for Ngannou’s status within the combat sports world. Before the match, there was no indication that Ngannou would have such a close result with Fury, but one boxing match does not indicate how eligible Ngannou is to be ranked that high.

While Ngannou performed impressively in his pro boxing debut, every ranking is based on a fighter’s entire boxing career, not determined by just one single bout. Without Ngannou having engaged any other heavyweight in boxing, the criteria seem to be solely based on popularity rather than merit, as boxing encompasses a variety of styles that Ngannou has yet to face.

This is reflected in the WBC’s own rules, stating that the rankings are decided through a multitude of criteria.

WBC Ignores Plethora Of Active And Winning Heavyweights To Rank Part-time MMA Fighter Francis Ngannou In Its Top 10 image 2
Article 6.6 of the WBC’s “Rules and Regulations”.

In the above-stated article, a number of criteria are cited that decide how high a boxer is ranked. The criteria seem to indicate that a boxer will be ranked when appropriately tested based on a number of fights, not just a single one. While accomplishments in other sports are taken into account, it is but one of many criteria that determine how a boxer should be ranked.

Francis Ngannou presents a problem in this regard, as he has not faced near enough opposition to properly determine his ranking. While he clearly has combat experience through MMA, the sport of boxing differs from MMA in many aspects, and it cannot be conclusively said that any other MMA champion would achieve much of the same as Ngannou did against Fury, nor does that mean a top 10 ranking would be warranted if they did.

Taking into account that MMA matches are entirely different in scope when it comes to boxing matches, it would make sense for Ngannou to be properly tested within boxing before being granted such a position. Through his contract with the PFL, Ngannou is also unlikely to fulfill his obligations to fight regularly in boxing, thus preventing other deserving contenders from gaining the opportunity to be in the top 10 based on their own fights and years of participation in the sport.

The WBC’s decision appears to be based more on the profitability that Francis Ngannou can bring given the status he has in sports overall. This can be inferred by the availability of other boxers who could easily slip into the top 10, including the likes of Fabio Wardley (34-0-1, 24 KO’s) who competed on the same card as Ngannou and has had to face an upward slope of opponents for years before even being put in his position as #18 on the WBC’s rankings of heavyweights. On that card, Wardley notably faced a tough heavyweight in fellow Brit David Adeleye (12-1, 11 KO’s) who he stopped.

Moreover, Ngannou’s performances within the UFC do not mean he is well-equipped against any of the other top 10 heavyweight boxers. As he has fought opponents in MMA who would likely not come anywhere close to the top 10, or even top 40 fighters in boxing, his performance against Fury does not exactly establish him as a proficient competitor, as he has not faced the requisite opponents to be judged in that manner.

There appears to be a strong sense of delusion that the WBC is operating on, which may not come as a surprise given the many questionable decisions they have already made. This decision is just another one in a long line of actions that continues to only impact the sport negatively, with 0-1 MMA fighters now being picked in the top 10 without any indication of how active they will actually be in the sport.