Ferreira KO’s Bader, paves way for Ngannou bout

MMA

Who will fight Francis Ngannou when he returns to the world of mixed martial arts? The answer is an emphatic Renan Ferreira.

Ferreira (13-3) knocked out Bellator MMA heavyweight champion Ryan Bader (31-8) in just 21 seconds on Saturday in the PFL vs. Bellator pay-per-view in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Ferreira knocked Bader down with a right hand, before ending the fight with hammerfists on the ground. It is his fourth consecutive win by knockout, three of which came in the first round.

“I am the real problem,” Ferreira said. “I am the record setter. Francis, where you at? I’m the champion out here. I’ve always been ready to fight with the very best in the world. Francis it can be in [MMA] or boxing, whatever you want to do.”

Ngannou (17-3) is scheduled to make his second appearance in professional boxing on March 8 in Saudi Arabia, when he takes on former heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua. Earlier this week, however, Ngannou told ESPN he still intends to return to MMA with the PFL, and said he would likely face the winner of Saturday’s contest between Ferreira and Bader. Ngannou was present cageside during the main event.

Ferreira, of Brazil, didn’t waste the opportunity to impress. The fight was essentially over before it began. He caught Bader with the right hand just moments in, after Bader moved forward with his own punches. Ferreira, who trains out of American Top Team in south Florida, has now recorded five first-round knockouts in the PFL, including finishes of 21 seconds, 50 seconds, 25 seconds and 31 seconds.

Ferreira claimed a “Super Belt” in the process, although he does not take ownership of Bader’s Bellator title. The real reward, however, is a future fight against Ngannou, which will also take place on PFL PPV.

Bader, a former two-weight champion in Bellator, saw a three-fight win streak snapped. He’d lost recently at light heavyweight against Vadim Nemkov and Corey Anderson, but had been dominant at heavyweight, including two wins over the legendary Fedor Emelianenko. It is the shortest loss of Bader’s professional career.

Saturday’s event marked the first PPV since PFL acquired Bellator late last year. Bellator champions fared well overall against their PFL counterparts. Welterweight champion Jason Jackson, middleweight champion Johnny Eblen and former champs Vadim Nemkov and AJ McKee all scored impressive wins over PFL opposition. Yoel Romero also picked up a win against PFL contender Thiago Santos.

Ferreira might have scored the biggest win of the night, however, and he did it for the PFL. Ferreira rolled through the 2023 season, including a finish over Denis Goltsov in the season finals in November. He has 11 career wins by knockout.

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