Francis Ngannou: Winning The Belt Is My Way Of Overcoming My Past
A little over a decade ago, Francis Ngannou was struggling to make ends meet in his hometown of Batié in Cameroon. Today, he’s one of the biggest stars in the world of mixed martial arts.
Ngannou vs Miocic 1
Ngannou is set to challenge Stipe Miocic for the UFC heavyweight title in the UFC 260 main event this weekend. The two competed for the first time at UFC 220, when the Ohio native successfully defended his title by utilising his superior wrestling skills to earn a dominant unanimous decision victory.
Speaking to Bleacher Report‘s Tom Taylor, Ngannou admitted that he wasn’t ready for Miocic the first time around in 2018.
“There was a lot of things that didn’t go right,” Ngannou said. “I didn’t know how to get prepared for that kind of fight. Nothing was done as it should have been, from signing [the bout agreement] to the fight. Sometimes you just have to say it wasn’t meant to be.”
Journey From Cameroon To France
Ngannou has bounced back in style since his loss at UFC 220, finishing his last four opponents, namely Curtis Blaydes, Junior dos Santos, Cain Velasquez, and Jairzinho Rozenstruik, all in the very first round. However, his warrior spirit transcends the Octagon as he has overcome tougher challenges in the past.
At the height of his hunger and desperation, Ngannou escaped Cameroon in search of a better life in France. But his journey was full of obstacles as ‘The Predator’ first had to travel all the way to Morocco, which took him a year.
“My journey from Cameroon to Morocco was about one year,” Ngannou said. “One year in illegal situations, crossing borders, living in the bush, finding food in the trash, living this terrible life.”
Ngannou arrived in Europe in Spain, but was detained for illegally entering the country by sea. He spent two ‘stressful’ months in a Spanish jail before he was set free.
“It was more stressful than scary,” Ngannou explained. “When we got to Spain, for the first while, we kind of relaxed, even though we were in jail. We knew we were going to go to jail when we got there. We would be free after, but we were going to go to jail [first].
“There was a lot of pressure in our minds. It was like a mental prison, not a physical prison. It was very hard.”
Life In Paris
The power puncher eventually made his way to Paris after he was released from prison. While things didn’t magically change for him overnight, Ngannou was still happy to be in a land full of opportunities.
“I was homeless then, but at that moment, it wasn’t difficult for me anymore,” Ngannou said. “You might think being homeless in Paris in the fall when it’s cold was not great, but the enthusiasm that I had at that time… Beyond everything, I was happy to be in the land of opportunity. I was happy to have my own life and be able to chase my own dreams. So that’s definitely one of the happiest moments of my life.
“Even though I was sleeping in parking lots and I didn’t have food or money, I was just free. Compared to where I was in Morocco, a parking lot was like a five-star hotel.”
After living homeless in the streets of Paris, Ngannou began training at MMA Factory in 2013 under Didier Carmont.
“It took me almost ten years [from the time I set my goal] to step foot in a gym for the very first time, but I always believed it would happen,” Ngannou recalled.
Winning The Belt
Ngannou’s ultimate goal is to become the UFC heavyweight champion, and he feels that he’s doing everything right in terms of preparation this time around.
“I push hard to get better every day,” Ngannou said. “That’s my goal. How much better have I gotten? I don’t know. But I do believe this fight’s going to be different because I’ve improved and I’ve had a different preparation for this fight. I’ve done everything right.”
Should he win the belt at UFC 260, Ngannou is sure that all his hard work would have paid off. In that moment however, he isn’t sure what his reaction would be.
“I keep trying to figure out which kind of emotions I’ll have at that moment, but honestly, I can’t,” Ngannou said. “I know it’s going to be huge, I know it’s going to be great, but I don’t know what will be my reaction. These emotions are not the kind of thing you can predict. The people who cry don’t say ‘Oh I’m going to cry.’ They just feel it. But it’s going to be great, it’s going to be awesome. It’s my own way to overcome my past.”
Do you think Francis Ngannou can beat Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 to become the new UFC heavyweight champion?