Francis Ngannou is one of the hottest names in sports at the moment. The 35-year-old Cameroonian is living his best moment. Last Saturday at UFC 270, he defended the UFC Heavyweight Championship by defeating Ciryl Gane with a surprising strategy. His future is unknown and could go through boxing since he has plans to go back to being a boxer. He challenged himself on social media with Tyson Fury, which makes his name even more known.
Francis Ngannou was born in Batié (Cameroon). Since childhood, he had a dream: to become a boxer. always idolizing Mike Tyson, whom he wanted to emulate. Despite this, he could not immediately start boxing. For 10 years he had to work in a mine to help with family expenses. Twelve years later, he decided to change his life. He decided to sell the motorcycle he used to go to work and with the money he earned he bought everything he needed to start boxing.
At 25, Francis Ngannou realised that if he wants to become a boxer, he will have to leave his country. So, after saving all the money he could, he headed for Europe. He only told his sister about his plan, and he did so because if anything went wrong, he would need her help. The steps were very heavy. He spent more than a year setting foot on European soil. He spent 14 months in Morocco and made several attempts to jump over the Melilla fence, which left visible scars on his body. In one of the last attempts he was about to make (seventh), he decided to take a small boat instead which took him to Tarifa.
In Spain he was detained. A lack of agreement between Spain and Cameroon prevented him from being extradited and led to his release. The idea was to go to Germany or England, the engine of European boxing, but he couldn’t afford it economically and took the bus to France.
In France, Ngannou spent a few days sleeping on the road. Luckily, an immigrant-serving organisation found him and offered to help. Instead of receiving food, he asked for work. He agreed with the pleasant surprise that there was an MMA gym next door. It wasn’t boxing, but the dream was near. The main obstacle was money, since he couldn’t afford it, but Fernand López, owner of the MMA Factory, saw his qualities and trained him for free.
With the talent he showed, at the age of 27 (2013), he made his professional debut. In just six fights, they got a call from the UFC. His career in the company was brilliant. Six wins, all before the limit, opened the door to the title. He fell to Stipe Miocic and then to Derrick Lewis. Relations between Ngannou and López reportedly went fragile. Together, they returned to winning ways against Blaydes and Cameroon decided to step in with their coach.
The switch worked, as after three wins he reunited with Stipe Miocic, whom he defeated this time to become champion. The separation was good on the one hand, but it caused a break between Ngannou and the one who had bet on him. It all came crashing down when López posted a video of Cameroon’s fight with Gane. The French fighter started training in the same gym as Francis in his final stages. So last Saturday’s fight was personal. Ngannou took the win, reaffirmed his status as heavyweight king and ended the rivalry in the best way possible for him.
Francis Ngannou’s future is unclear. At UFC 270, he fought the last fight he signed with the UFC, but when he won the belt, his contract got automatically renewed for three fights or a year (whichever comes first). Before facing Gane, The Cameroonian confessed that he will no longer fight for a tiny sum (600,000 dollars) and exchanged messages on social media with Tyson Fury. After the trial ended, the challenge reappeared on social media. Facade or something real? It is the unknown that must now be lifted. Ngannou is the king of the UFC of heavyweight and he wants to make it profitable.