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Francis Ngannou was willing to fight Fabricio Werdum last minute after Derrick Lewis withdrew

LAS VEGAS – Francis Ngannou attempted to save the day at UFC 216, but unfortunately an unanswered phone call prevented that from happening.

Ngannou (10-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) said he had a gut feeling something would happen to derail tonight’s UFC 216 heavyweight bout between Fabricio Werdum (21-7-1 MMA, 9-4 UFC) and Derrick Lewis (18-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC). The worst happened just minutes before the event was scheduled to begin, when news broke Lewis’ lingering back issues would prevent him from competing.

Ultimately the UFC managed to cobble together a scenario that saw Walt Harris moved up from the undercard into the matchup with Werdum, but Ngannou said he wanted that spot.

“It’s a good matchup. Definitely this is a good matchup that I would never dodge it,” Ngannou said backstage. “I knew I was going to fight Alistair Overeem one day. I’ve been waiting for this fight and got ready for it since a long time ago.

“I got no answer, but I called when I saw the news. I tried to contact the matchmaker (Mick Maynard). He was busy. If I call, and he picks up, I say, ‘OK, I’m ready for him.’ … Honestly I would take the fight. I’ve been preparing for this, maybe something was going to happen between Werdum and Lewis. I’ve been preparing for this in case somebody pull out of this fight. I feel like something was going to happen. I got ready for it. … It was last minute, there was no way to change with the commissions.”

UFC 216 took place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card aired on pay-per-view following prelims on FX and UFC Fight Pass.

Ngannou hasn’t fought since a knockout of Andrei Arlovski at UFC on FOX 22 in January. He’s been eager to get back in the octagon since, especially after his planned UFC 215 matchup with Junior Dos Santos was called off just weeks prior to the September event.

“The Predator” said he would have stepped in on fight day at UFC 216 if red tape from the commission wouldn’t have made it impossible, but fortunately, Ngannou still has a massive fight ahead of him.

Ngannou is scheduled to meet Overeem (43-15 MMA, 8-4 UFC) in December’s UFC 218 co-main event. If he were to win, he would be on a divisional-best six-fight winning streak and in perfect position to challenge current heavyweight titleholder Stipe Miocic (17-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC). Although he hasn’t been promised a title shot with a win against Overeem, there’s no doubt from Ngannou that it’s going to happen.

“I think after the fight there is no way to deny me the title shot,” Ngannou said. “I’m sure I’ll beat Alistair and get a title shot. I still haven’t fought the champion. There’s no way not to give me the title shot after this fight.”

For complete coverage of UFC 216, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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