The Gypsy King took on the former MMA star in Riyadh in one of the most eagerly-anticipated bouts of the year, but only narrowly won the fight by split decision via a score of 94-95, 96-93, 95-94.
Ngannou left Riyadh with much of the credit and had Fury on the ropes for large parts of the fight, dropping the 35-year-old boxer to the canvas in the third round.
The high-profile crossover fight has not only affected the boxing careers of both Fury and Ngannou but also had implications on several key figures within the world of combat sports.
Mail Sport takes a look at the biggest winners and losers from Saturday night in the Middle East.
Tyson Fury narrowly beat former UFC champions Francis Ngannou by split decision in Riyadh
It was a far from convincing display by the Gypsy King, who many fans feel was lucky to win
Fury was bullied for large parts by Ngannou, who dropped him to the canvas in the third round
Dana White – LOSER
Saturday night was not a good look for the UFC president. His loss is a significant gain for the PFL, who signed the heavyweight this summer after his acrimonious UFC exit in January.
White refused to meet Ngannou’s salary demands and failed to offer the former UFC heavyweight champion the ‘freedom’ he wanted to venture into other sports.
And now, after Ngannou’s impressive display against Fury on Saturday, the PFL are set reap the rewards with the Cameroonian primed to attract more lucrative bouts, leaving a regretful White with egg on his face.
The president claimed this fight would fail to match up to the highly-anticipated crossover bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor in 2017, and it’s ultimately proved an incorrect statement.
More stars turned out to watch Fury and Ngannou lock horns on Saturday night, and Saudi Arabia forked out a similar fee for it. The ‘Battle of the Baddest’ was no doubt a showpiece White let slip through his fingers.
Dana White will be regretting his decision to let Ngannou leave the UFC and join the PFL
UFC – WINNER
Although he is no longer one of their own, UFC’s reputation enhanced significantly after Saturday night, as Ngannou proved he could go toe-to-toe with boxing’s best heavyweight and arguably should have emerged the victor.
He may now be with the PFL, but Ngannou was a regular fixture in the UFC for eight years and is still heavily associated with the MMA company.
A former UFC champion flooring the most highly-rated boxer in the world is an excellent advert for the organisation, especially as he still holds the record for the hardest punch in the world.
Now that Ngannou’s star power has risen following his Saudi showdown with Fury, the UFC will likely see their viewership figures shoot up significantly in the near future, as they continue to lure combat sport enthusiasts away from boxing.
Tyson Fury – LOSER
The Gypsy King is ironically the biggest loser from Saturday night, despite beating Ngannou in Riyadh.
The heavy favourite promised fans a show, but he was uncharacteristically poor throughout the fight and many key figures in boxing believe Ngannou was unfairly denied one of the most shocking upsets in the sport’s history.
Fury may have won the contest but he was in many ways the biggest loser from Saturday night
Ngannou, having never fought as a boxer before, bullied, controlled, bruised and dropped Fury during the 10-round non-title bout, embarrassing the undefeated world heavyweight champion in what was expected to be a landslide victory.
Sure, Saturday night was a huge payday for Fury and he just about kept hold of his unbeaten record. But now, with a unification bout against Oleksandr Usyk on the horizon, Fury’s star power is being questioned.
Frank Warren – LOSER
He was primed and ready to announce a date for Fury’s undisputed heavyweight title fight against Usyk, but now Frank Warren is backtracking. And he appears to be holding the blows Ngannou landed on Fury responsible.
‘He needs at least a bit of time to get himself, his body, back into shape. Let it heal. Then get into a camp. It will be on early next year,’ Warren told BBC5Live Boxing podcast after Fury’s lacklustre performance.
Warren is appearing to suggest that Fury’s grazed forehead and black eye is enough to postpone the highly-anticipated unification fight. But boxing fans don’t suffer fools gladly.
Promoter Frank Warren (above) looks as though he’s putting the breaks on an undisputed title fight between Oleksandr Usyk and Fury, who was well off the pace in Saudi Arabia on Saturday
It seems Warren, having watched Fury struggle against the former UFC champion, is genuinely concerned about the prospect of him facing Usyk soon. Denying fans what they’ve been craving for all year, just to give an unprepared Fury a little extra time in camp, is unlikely to go down well.
Francis Ngannou – WINNER
Ngannou will no doubt be bitterly disappointed with the defeat, but in all other ways he’ll feel on top of the world.
Few gave Ngannou a prayer against the undefeated Gypsy King, and even those fighting his corner couldn’t have predicted how well he’d do. Although his power was no surprise, the fighter looked lean, clean and skilful against Fury.
As a result, his stock has sky rocketed and he’ll have no problem attracting lucrative bouts in the future. As he almost beat the world heavyweight champion, challengers will be keen to show what they can do against the Cameroonian as they look to secure a title shot.
Ngannou showed he was a highly-skilled fighter against Fury and now has plenty of options
Now set for a WBC ranking, and one likely to fall inside the top 10, the world is Ngannou’s oyster. He could stay with the PFL or even seal a dramatic return to the UFC.
One thing’s for sure: he’ll certainly line his pockets better in boxing.
Oleksandr Usyk – WINNER
Although his unification fight is set to go on ice for a while, the Ukrainian must be licking his lips at the prospect of facing Fury in this kind of form.
Usyk was largely viewed as an underdog against the Gypsy King ahead of Saturday night, but now – despite still being the inferior commercial draw – many boxing fans are starting to fancy the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO champion.
Usyk must be licking his lips at the prospect of facing Fury after his lacklustre performance
If Fury turns up against Usyk as he did versus Ngannou, the Ukrainian will likely claim every honour in heavyweight boxing and carve his name firmly into the history books as one of the all-time greats.
Moreover, after a dismal showing in Saudi Arabia, all eyes will be on Fury’s training camp as he gears up to face Usyk, meaning the 36-year-old can better avoid the spotlight and focus on the task at hand.
Anthony Joshua – WINNER
AJ didn’t lift a finger this weekend, but there’s suddenly a lot of renewed interest in seeing him face Fury.
Sharing a similar boxing style to Ngannou, it’s not too farfetched to claim that Joshua could cause Fury problems, even if he would head into the fight a significant underdog.
There’s now a renewed interest in a fight between Anthony Joshua (above) and the Gypsy King
Although Fury is contractually obliged to face Usyk next, AJ has found himself in the conversation again and could secure another title shot if he plays his cards right.
After beating Jermaine Franklin and knocking out Robert Helenius, the former Olympic champion is keenly searching for his next opponent and could climb further up heavyweight rankings if he lands a big name while Fury and Usyk focus on each other.
Eddie Hearn made no secret of AJ’s desire to face Fury. ‘Forget Fury vs Usyk – no one is interested,’ he said after Saturday’s clash.
‘Just give us Fury vs AJ. AJ will knock Tyson Fury out inside six rounds. Make the fight or we will never get it.’