Francis Ngannou is now Africa’s third UFC champion, joining Kamaru Usman and Israel Adesanya in the bracket of elite fighters, after dethroning Stipe Miocic for the UFC World Heavyweight Championship. Ngannou’s story is a remarkable one, and epitomised a man who started from absolutely nothing but a dream and a man would not be denied that dream. At the age of 10 years old, Ngannou worked at a sand quarry in his hometown of Baite, Cameroon. In 2012 he was sleeping outside in the woods in Tangier, Morocco, in an attempt to immigrate to Europe. Ngannou was jailed for two months in Spain for illegally crossing the border, then migrated to Paris. After sleeping on the streets of Paris, he would then meet his former trainer Fernand Lopez and was introduced to the MMA Factory, the largest mixed martial arts gym in Paris, which ignited his career in MMA.
Francis spoke on this period on Twitter, stating the following:
"#ThrowbackThursday. This was in December 2012 I was still in Tangier, Morocco trying to find my way out to Europe. I was sleeping outside in the woods and I had nothing but the clothes I am wearing here [below right] . But I had dreams and confidence. Those have been my greatest assets which led me from where i was 8 years ago to where I'm today. Never let anyone take your dreams and confidence from you or tell you you can’t make it or you couldn’t make it without them."
Ngannou would go on to sign for the UFC in 2015, and possessed a 5-1 record. The Predator would go on to win his first 6 UFC fights, and claimed ESPN Knockout of the Year in 2017 with a sensational first round knockout over Alistair Overeem, setting up a title shot against Stipe Miocic in January 2018. The fight was too soon for Ngannou as Stipe dominated the first fight, throwing 208 punches compared to Ngannou’s 34, with Ngannou’s inexperience showing. Ngannou would go on to suffer back to back defeats, losing via unanimous decision against Derreck Lewis, a fight which has been dubbed the worst UFC fight of all time.
Francis bounced back and won his next 4 fights, all by knockout, setting up the rematch with Stipe Miocic. The rematch didn’t last very long as Stipe fell victim to a vintage Ngannou left hook early in the second round. Ngannou possesses freakish power, and it is clear to see how much he is developing and maturing as a fighter. This was evident in the fight as vast improvements were made to Ngannou’s takedown defence, as he successfully prevented a dangerous takedown attempt from Stipe in the first round.
Francis Ngannou is now considered by many as “the baddest man on the planet”, a phrase commonly associated with Mike Tyson. Even though the fight was behind closed doors, the world has most certainly taken notice of Ngannou and is on a one way journey to superstar status. This could be catalysed with a high profile fight against UFC legend and former two time light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. It has been well documented that negotiations for this fight are proving to be challenging for UFC president Dana White, as Jones is unsurprisingly demanding a hefty fee for this fight. There is also talk of a crossover fight with either Tyson Fury or Anthony Joshua in the future. This would generate tens of millions for Ngannou and would be an iconic moment in sporting history, which is nothing short of what Ngannou deserves for all the adversity he has had to overcome in his life.