Francis Ngannou's Rise To The Top Is A Fairytale Story Of Determination, Adventure And Perseverance.
Francis Ngannou is a professional Mixed Martial Artist currently signed under Dana White at the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). He has won 15 fights and has lost 3 in his 6 year professional career. The Cameroonian is notorious for his devastating knockout power, dominating physical presence and fearless nature. However, Ngannou's journey to stardom is an unusual one - from a homeless immigrant, to headlining at Madison Square Garden.
Francis Zavier Ngannou was born in the town of Batié in Cameroon on the 5th of September 1986. Little is known about his relatives other than the fact that he had multiple siblings and that his father had a negative reputation in his village for being a street-fighter. Francis had a hard childhood, growing up in poverty and receiving no formal education. Furthermore his parents divorced when he was just 6 years old and subsequently he moved in with his aunt. At 12 years old he started working in a sand quarry to make ends meet. In the impoverished area that he lived, it was common for children to start working at a young age just to be able to eat. Whilst working at the sand quarry, Ngannou was approached multiple times about turning to a life of crime and joining a gang that was at large in Batié. Although risky, this life could earn Francis more money than he was earning at the sand quarry, however he refused to join a gang and continued to try and find his way. In an interview with BT Sport's Adam Catterall, Ngannou reveals why he stayed on the straight and narrow - "From a very young age I knew how I didn't want to end up, this was because of my Father's reputation." The mixed martial artist wanted to be a boxer from a young age and started training in the sport at the age of 22, despite initial reluctance from his family. Unfortunately he had to stop training after a year due to an undisclosed illness. Ngannou also tells Adam Catterall that "I always believed that if I had a dream, I have to try at least once." So at the age of 26 he packed his bags and headed to the train station, leaving his family behind in search of opportunity and a better life.
Ngannou's European Journey.
Francis knew he wanted to make it to Europe, as he believed he could find better opportunities for himself. He left Cameroon with a few possessions and the little money he saved up from working odd jobs in Batié and headed towards Nigeria via a mixture of train rides and hitch-hiking. From Nigeria he walked all the way to Niger where he would subsequently cross the Sahara Desert with fellow travellers into Algeria. Next he crossed the Mediterranean Sea and made it to Europe after an unbelievably harrowing and risky journey. Ngannou wanted to end up in a country that was fond of boxing, but apparently ruled out Britain as it involved another border crossing. After searching for opportunities in Germany he then moved on to France, by then he had nowhere to live, no friends and no money and was starting to lose hope. However Francis Ngannou's story was about to take a fairy-tale twist. After volunteering at an association named La Chorba in exchange for refuge, Ngannou met a man by the name of Didier Carmont. It was an act of generosity by Carmont that would change the Cameroonian's life forever. Didier convinced a boxing gym that he attended to let Ngannou train for free and live at the gym and in return the young man was expected to train everyday.
After only a few weeks of training at the gym Ngannou had a conversation with Carmont that is best described in Francis' own words - "he told me I had good punching power and fighting potential, but advised me that the best way to get out of my impoverished situation was to pursue MMA.” At first the future-star brushed off his mentor's advice, as it was his dream to be a boxer, but began starting to train in mixed martial arts when discovering he had a natural talent for the sport. 2 years went by with Ngannou training MMA for fun and competing for French MMA promotion 100% Fight aswell as other regional promotions in Europe. His first fight came against a fighter named Rachid Benzina and Ngannou finished him with an armbar in the first round.
Ngannou's UFC career started on the 19th of December 2015 when he fought "fellow newcomer" Luis Henrique, he went on to knock out the Brazilian in the second round. The Cameroonian was undefeated in his first 6 fights and caught UFC president Dana White's attention as a rising star. White gave Ngannou his first main event against one of the greatest heavyweights of all time - Stipe Miocic. The American won via unanimous decision - using superior wrestling, ground work and stamina to dominate Ngannou. It was the effects of this that would be to Francis' detriment in his next fight against Derrick Lewis.
The fight against Lewis was hyped up heavily. With both fighters having monstrous knockout power, the match up was labelled as "the clash of the titans." Sadly for the UFC and its millions of fans this fight would go down as one of the worst in the company's history, with tentativeness and laziness from both fighters. Even constant booing from the crowd did not seem to encourage either Ngannou or Lewis to throw significant strikes or takedown attempts. Joe Rogan, the UFC's most cherished commentator described the fight as "the worst heavyweight bout I've ever seen." Derrick Lewis won via unanimous decision and Ngannou suffered his second consecutive loss as a mixed martial artist. Unexpectedly, Ngannou would take to Instagram to pick apart his awful fight. He apologised to fans and admitted "I carried the fear I had from the last fight into this one" and said "I will work hard to make sure this never happens again."
Francis is presently doing very well in his fighting career. After his humiliation against Derrick Lewis, he has beaten Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez, Junior Dos Santos and most recently Jairzinho Rozenstruik, putting him on a 4 fight win streak. More notably he won all of the 4 fights via knockout or technical knockout, making him a solid heavyweight title contender.
The Future Is Bright.
After knocking out Jairzinho Rozenstruik at UFC 249 in early May, Ngannou is in the works of securing the biggest fight of his career against Jon Jones. Jones, the two time Light-Heavyweight champion claimed "I have nothing left to prove in my current division." This means that jones is looking to fight someone from the heavyweight division. If he gets to fight Jones, Ngannou will surely be seen as one of the best MMA fighters in the heavyweight division. Fans of the Cameroonian are already speculating that his amazing journey to the UFC makes him the perfect challenger to dethrone Jon Jones. Even Ngannou himself has told reporters "Simply, I've been through hell."
The hype around this man continues to grow and as if being one of the scariest MMA fighters ever to grace the sport wasn't enough, Ngannou has broken an impressive record this year that is so incredible, it leaves fans struggling to believe it at first glance. Francis Ngannou holds the world record for the most powerful punch in combat sports. His right hook equivalates to 96 horsepower, which is the equivalent of being hit by Ford Escort at top speed or getting hit by a sledgehammer being swung full force from overhead. At times it's difficult to believe that the man is even human.
To conclude, Ngannou is a role model for anyone who works hard and dreams big. He also has a backstory worthy of a Hollywood movie and more than deserves his success in the MMA world. The moral of his story is that if you work hard and keep persevering, you can change you and your family's lives forever.
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Ewan on May 23, 2020:
Amazing article on mma and combat sports monster athlete Francis Ngannou, also shocking to find out about his journey to Europe, learned something new, great stuff