Francis Ngannou coach explains ‘creative’ ways MMA star can beat Tyson Fury

Eric Nicksick recently guided Sean Strickland to one of the biggest upsets in UFC history

Alex Pattle
Combat Sports Correspondent
Monday 02 October 2023 15:43 BST
Topless Tyson Fury tries to get Francis Ngannou to take shirt off

Francis Ngannou’s coach has admitted that his fighter must get ‘creative’ to beat Tyson Fury in their upcoming boxing match.

Under Eric Nicksick, Ngannou won the UFC heavyweight title in 2021 with a knockout of Stipe Miocic, who had dominated Ngannou in their first fight in 2018, when the Cameroonian was trained by Fernand Lopez. Nicksick also guided Sean Strickland to a middleweight title win over Israel Adesanya in September, a result that has been deemed one of the biggest upsets in UFC history.

Along with boxing legend Mike Tyson, Nicksick will be in Ngannou’s corner on 28 October as the mixed martial artist faces Fury, who reigns as WBC heavyweight champion.

Nicksick told MMA Fighting ahead of the bout in Saudi Arabia, where Fury’s title will not be on the line: “It’s the hardest task [...] You’re saying we’re going to move over to boxing, where you don’t have the ability to take someone down, you don’t have the ability to chop a calf kick and neutralise some movement and those things.

“We’re jumping into somebody else’s territory and trying to figure out how to beat the best to ever to do it in the heavyweight division. It is going to be tough. I’m going to tell Francis to sneak in a single-leg [takedown] every once in a while, take this guy down; maybe we get one single-leg for free,” Nicksick joked.

Some fans have compared Ngannou’s punching power to that of Deontay Wilder, who knocked down Fury four times in three fights but could only manage a controversial draw and two losses against the Briton, 35.

“Here’s the thing,” said Nicksick. “Wilder might look wild, he might not be as technical as [some boxers], but I think just having a little bit of erratic motion, things that you may not be accustomed to and [don’t] look as clean, that’s right where I think clean boxers get hit. We call them ‘boogers’ in the gym.

“It’s not a term of disrespect. It’s just like... When you watch two guys who are very, very technical fighters, they just are working on this sharpness of technique back and forth. Whereas if you put a technical fighter against a booger, he’s not used to that erratic motion and stuff coming from different angles and different stances. Doing all this stuff that we do within MMA, I think it’s going to be key for us – to not try to outbox Tyson Fury.

“I think if we get in a situation where it’s like, ‘Hey, we’re going to out-technique this guy,’ we’re going to be in trouble. It’s up to us to come up with creative ways on how to approach this.”

Fury, left, will not put his WBC title on the line against Ngannou (Getty Images)

Ngannou, 37, relinquished the UFC heavyweight title upon leaving the MMA promotion in January, and he has not fought since January 2022, when he retained the belt with a points win against Ciryl Gane – a former teammate – using a surprising, wrestling-based gameplan.

Ngannou recently signed with the Professional Fighters League, a rival promotion to the UFC, and is expected to make his debut with the company in 2024.

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