All it took was one punch for Francis Ngannou to officially announce himself as the heavyweight No. 1 contender at UFC 218.
The Cameroonian-born Frenchman walloped Alistair Overeem with a massive left hook in Saturday’s co-main event in Detroit on Saturday night, bringing a resounding end to their title eliminator bout just 1:42 into the opening round. It was simply another day at the office for Ngannou, who has kicked off his UFC tenure with six consecutive finishes.
“It is one punch,” Ngannou said. “Not just to Overeem, not just to Stipe [Miocic], I will do that to everyone.”
Perhaps more shocking than the brutality of Ngannou’s knockout victory was the fact that the Las Vegas resident didn’t receive a post-fight bonus for his work. It was a night of stiff competition in that area, as both Eddie Alvarez vs. Justin Gaethje and Yancy Medeiros vs. Alex Oliveira received “Fight of the Night” honors. Still, UFC President Dana White vowed that Ngannou would not go unrewarded.
“Trust me, Francis lives at the Performance Institute,” White said. “I don’t need him knocking on my f—-ing door looking for his bonus. We’ll get him situated.”
Of course, there is an even greater reward looming for the heavyweight star. Barring some kind of unforeseen circumstance, the victory should assure Ngannou of a title shot against Miocic at some point in 2018. Following “The Ultimate Fighter 26” finale on Friday night, White told assembled media that the Ngannou-Overeem winner would receive the next title shot.
White reiterated that point at Saturday’s post-fight press conference, and said he would ideally like to book the fight for UFC 220 in Boston on Jan. 20. Contract negotiations with Miocic could put a kink in those plans, however, but White said while there is no deal in place, talks are ongoing.
Miocic is on an impressive streak of his own, with five consecutive KO/TKO finishes in the Octagon. That includes a knockout of Fabricio Werdum to claim heavyweight gold as well as first-round finishes of Overeem and Junior dos Santos in his first two title defenses.
Ngannou is eagerly anticipating the day when he can stand across from Miocic in the Octagon.
“I am on my way to completing my dream,” Ngannou said. “I always dreamed of being a world champion. I thought it would be in boxing but my dream changed when I discovered MMA. MMA was my calling and now I am on my way to this dream. Tell Stipe that I am coming. I am on my way to collect my belt. I thank him for keeping it for me but that time is over. That is my belt.”