Francis Ngannou will undergo surgery on his knee after suffering a torn MCL and damaged ACL, his manager Marquel Martin told Brett Okamoto of ESPN.
The injuries reportedly occurred during the build-up to his fight against Ciryl Gane at UFC 270, which Ngannou won to retain his UFC heavyweight championship. It was the sixth straight win for the 35-year-old, including his knockout of Stipe Miocic for the belt in March 2021.
Martin projected Ngannou's recovery to last about nine months before he is able to train or compete again.
The injury comes at an interesting time for Ngannou, who has said he wouldn't take part in another UFC fight without a new contract.
Per Okamoto, Ngannou has completed eight fights as part of his initial eight-part contract. Though he would have been a free agent if he lost on Saturday, the win triggers a "champion's clause" that keeps him under contract for either three fights or one year.
The No. 4 pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC rankings said he would hold out if necessary, but the knee injury could prevent him from competing over this time frame anyway.
The surgery also pushes back some potentially exciting bouts for Ngannou going forward.
The fighter teased a boxing match against WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury if allowed by UFC:
Jon Jones has also indicated his interest in moving up to heavyweight, sending out a warning over the weekend:
These superstars will have to find new opponents while Ngannou recovers from his surgery, which will take place after he returns to the United States from a planned trip home to Cameroon.
"I continue to be amazed and inspired by Francis' heart and resilience," Martin told Okamoto. "Fighting on one leg to overcome all odds, and remind the world he is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. I think we can all agree he deserves some time to go back home and be with his family and countrymen."