Impa Kasanganay is a world champion and $1 million richer. Now, he’s setting his sights even higher.
At this past Friday’s PFL World Championship 2023 event, Kasanganay earned a convincing unanimous decision win over Josh Silveira to complete a stunning eight-month campaign that saw him earn a spot in the league with a win on its Challenger Series, and then go 4-0 inside the SmartCage to claim a light heavyweight tournament title (and the aforementioned seven-figure prize).
Kasanganay has no shortage of options going forward. The PFL recently acquired Bellator MMA, and that promotion’s light heavyweight titleholder, Vadim Nemkov, could meet Kasanganay in a champion vs. champion bout. Kasanganay could also return to middleweight to face undefeated Bellator champion Johnny Eblen.
Appearing on The MMA Hour, Kasanganay had another suggestion for his next bout: Lineal heavyweight king Francis Ngannou.
“I want to fight more,” Kasanganay said. “I wish there were more fights in the season, really. I think they should have an eight-fight season, 10 fights. You really want to make a statement, you want to do something that challenges other organizations and does something special. It’s not so much trying to compete, but do things in your own way.
“For me, where the warriors go is PFL. Like they say, build it and they will come. So I’m happy to have five fights this year.
“I’d love to fight Nemkov and Ngannou. Johnny Eblen may come up, I believe my dog Aaron Jeffery is next in line to fight Eblen and get that Bellator title, whatever God’s plan is. I love to stay active, I love to fight. I’m ready to go back in the gym.”
A move up to heavyweight for Kasanganay seems unlikely, especially considering that prior to his spectacular PFL run, he was best known for being on the receiving end of an all-time great knockout against now-welterweight Joaquin Buckley in October 2020. But few would have predicted that he’d ever be fighting for $1 million, either.
Kasanganay has faith that an Ngannou fight can happen, and that, if it does, he has what it takes to topple the former UFC champion.
“I believe Ngannou is possible for sure,” Kasanganay said. “I’m a Christian, anything is possible with God. Ngannou’s a warrior. I’ve met him once when at the [UFC Performance Institute]. I think he’s an amazing man — I’m very inspired by him, he wants to be the best. I don’t want MMA to die. I don’t want MMA to suffer like boxing is. I love warrior culture, and I believe the best of the best need to fight the best. Look at The Four Kings: Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray, Tommy Hearns. There’s a reason they were known as the greats. They were willing to come back home on their shield or die on it as a spartan.
“For me, it’s like, take that. I’m not here to go compete, or test myself, or try to win with Ngannou — I’m going to go claim that victory. The biggest I’ve ever been was 245 if we want to talk about a size difference. He could be taller, but my heart and my spirit, I’m telling you, I mean it from the bottom of my heart, I’ll take him out, out of all due respect.
“I would love to do the PFL in Kinshasa, where The Rumble in the Jungle was, where my parents are from. I’ll go to Cameroon, where his homeland is. I respect what he’s done. I don’t care. I’ll fight him in Antarctica, and I hate the cold. I will gladly go anywhere in this world to fight the best of the best. If it’s him, if it’s somebody else, I want that, because there’s nothing to be gained in playing small. People might think, ‘He’s just talking the talk.’ I’m not. Shoot, I’ll do it for free. If Ngannou were to beat me, he keeps everything, take my whole purse, I don’t care. I’ll take him out. I’m here to be the best. On the other side of that, I take him out, pay me $15 million.”
Kasanganay emphasized that his callout of Ngannou is based around respect and a desire to compete against MMA’s biggest stars. Currently on a six-fight winning streak, Kasanganay is still working on making a name for himself, and he’s willing to grind that much more if it gets him a fight with Ngannou further down the line.
“I’m going to be the best where I’m at, I’m going to build, and they will come,” Kasanganay said. “I’ve got to earn it. Maybe it’s me taking on Nemkov, taking on these people, taking on a few heavyweights, then Ngannou says, ‘Let’s go.’ OK. But I want the best of the best. I’m going to be the best of the best and that’s it. That’s my only standard.
“People can hate me for it, they can love me for it, but for me, it’s like, I don’t have kids yet, I’m not married, I’m single. The day that I have kids I want them to ask if I gave it my all and I can say, ‘Yes.’ On the days that I fell short, they can understand why and they can follow suit in their own pursuits. Francis, if you’re out there, I’ve got respect for you. Thank you for being a great African champion, thank you for all you’ve done. Let’s get it. Let’s fight in the cage, let’s do the PFL Africa inaugural fight. I’ll meet you in Saudi Arabia, I’ll meet you in South Africa. I have all the respect, I’ll never disrespect you.”News Related