Showtime Sports President Stephen Espinoza believes Francis Ngannou is now weighing his options, after spending the past couple of months in free agency.
Espinoza, who has helped put together some massive boxing matches over the years, most recently got the job done with Ryan Garcia vs. Gervonta Davis, which will go down this April.
Speaking to Cageside Press on the media junket for that fight, Espinoza confirmed that both his outfit and Bellator MMA, who air stateside on Showtime, have had talks with the former UFC champ.
“We’ve spoken to him, I know Bellator’s spoken to him,” confirmed Espinoza. “Look, everybody’s spoken to him. You don’t see a guy [like that] come along that often, and even rarer is it to see him come out and be a complete free agent. So I think he’s evaluating all his options. He’s doing the smart thing, he’s talked to everybody, and he’s weighing his options.”
With that said, Espinoza believes the deal being offered by Showtime and Bellator might be the best one out there.
“Personally I’m biased, but I think we’ve got the really intriguing opportunity to be able to seamlessly go back and forth [between MMA and boxing]. Scott Coker and I work well together, and we’ve talked about Francis, being able to participate on both of our platforms.”
Interestingly enough, Espinoza added that “we’ve talked about other fighters as well.”
Upon leaving the UFC, Ngannou made clear that his next stop would likely be in the boxing realm. Bellator’s Scott Coker previously allowed Cris Cyborg to moonlight in boxing, while Michael “Venom” Page was granted leave to fight in bare-knuckle for BKFC last summer.
Espinoza appears to be following a similar playbook. “We’re open minded in terms of the interest. If the audience is interested, and it’s a credible sporting event, we would definitely consider it. Whether it’s Jake Paul or Francis Ngannou or some of the other guys— there’s probably a half-dozen, maybe a dozen Bellator fighters who have said to me ‘at some point I’d like to try boxing.’ Because at a certain point, it’s sort of a natural next step.”
“It’s harder for boxers to go into MMA,” Espinoza added, “but MMA, they’re already training in striking and boxing. So it’s a smaller step. I think absolutely, it makes a lot of sense to do that.”
Watch our full interview with Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza above.