Francis Ngannou’s story from the backdrops of a small village in Cameroon to arguably the most ferocious fighter the world of mixed martial arts has ever seen is nothing less than a Hollywood movie that deserves all the credit and acclaim. The rise of Francis Ngannou is an inspiration to the entire world to say nonetheless and speaks volumes about his character. If you want to achieve something in life, Ngannou tells you that you can do it provided your mind and heart are at the right place.
Francis Ngannou is a gifted athlete. The ferocious knockout artist rose to superstardom after his short stint with the UFC that got him the title opportunity against Stipe Miocic back at UFC 220. While relatively young in his mixed martial arts career, Ngannou’s power was a force to be reckoned with in the world of mixed martial arts.
Needless to say, the stats indicate that the power at which Ngannou hits his opponent inside the Octagon is equivalent to being hit by a Ford Escort. Intriguing and dangerous!
Francis Ngannou’s childhood
Ngannou grew up in the small town of Batie, located in the western province of Cameroon. Francis did not have a happy childhood, his father was abusive and would beat him and his mother. Ngannou recalls that his earliest memories of his childhood subsidies with the shame he felt listening to stories about how his father would get violent with his mother.
“I was about ten years old when I started (mining) in the village,” Ngannou revealed in an episode of the Joe Rogan Experience.
“Even though that work was meant for adults, but we didn’t have any option. We take what we had at the time.”
— Francis Ngannou (@francis_ngannou) May 10, 2020
Ngannou was raised by his single mother and spent most of his time taking care of her. The Predator learned early, the responsibilities of a man and started working in the field at a very young age.
Ngannou revealed on the Joe Rogan podcast that he started digging sand mines as a means to contribute to his family. At the time, he was living in his aunt’s place and had moved to his grandmother. Ngannou opens up on how he had to earn to get bread, buy things, and money to avail education.
Francis Ngannou education
Ngannou talks about how he would go hungry for an entire day sometimes because he had nothing to eat, no money to buy food. He would work in the minefield on the weekends, on national holidays. Francis wouldn’t even go to his hometown during the winter holidays and tried to do everything to contribute to his family.
At the time, education was not free in Cameroon. Ngannou would walk two hours every day to the school. It was also during this time that Ngannou started working in the minefield, and he would continue to do it till the age of seventeen.
“I don’t find it fun to talk about my childhood. It’s not happy, for me, it’s sad. I always admire people when I sit around and see people, friends, or somebody else talking about their childhood; their friends when they were kids, all the things they were doing, their cartoons, kind of like the culture. I feel like those are the missing parts of my life.”
In a recent interview with ESPN journalist Brett Okamoto, Ngannou shared some crude details about his childhood.
It was after the demise of Ngannou’s dad that the Predator decided to follow his goals. Ngannou’s thirst for a better life was fuelled by his inability to pay for his medical bills. This not only motivated Ngannou but sent him to a path that would define his character and bring him closer to the cusp of global stardom.
Francis Ngannou immigrating to other countries
Ngannou realized early that there was no way he was going to change his family’s life by living in Cameroon. He decided to move to America with just one dream, to become a world champion.
Ngannou’s first stop in his journey to the United States was Nigeria. It was fairly easy to enter Nigeria from Cameroon because of the open border between both countries. Going forward, Ngannou had to meet the bribes, face humiliation to the extent where officers would evens strip him down and take everything he had before allowing him to move any further.
The next stop for Ngannou was Algeria, walking down from the Sahara desert to get an illegal entry into the country. The Predator recalls that when they finally crossed the Sahara desert, he was so dehydrated that he had to drink from the only available source of water – a well that was so dirty that it had dead animals in it.
“I may drink this water and die – but if I don’t drink this water, I will die anyway. So I drank it.”
The treacherous journey from Morocco to Spain
Ngannou moved to Morocco from here, and from there to Spain. However, it was not easy. Morocco is not a country you want to be in as an immigrant. He spent much of his time in Morrocan forests, hiding from the police and filling his stomach with food that he found in trash cans.
Every time an immigrant was caught by the police, they would be dropped back to the desert in Algeria. When Ngannou almost cut his body open by a barbed wire in his attempt to cross the border, the Predator had to go to the hospital where his identity was revealed, however, he saved his life considering had he stayed there, he would have died out of loss of blood.
Ngannou was dropped back to the desert in Algeria on six different occasions, and each time he bounced back. It was Ngannou’s grit and determination, his resilience in the face of adversity that has brought him where he is today.
Francis Ngannou starts his MMA journey in France
Ngannou reached Spain traveling in a boat covered with aluminum foil to avoid getting detected by the radar. The heavyweight contender reached Spain and called the Red Cross who picks him up and puts him in isolation in a prison cell. Ngannou would spend two months in the Spanish cell and started living in a parking lot after he was released.
Ngannou’s initial dream was to make it big in boxing. However, when he started training under quality coaches, they got him to shift his attention to mixed martial arts.
Francis Ngannou moves to the United States of America and fulfills his dream
It’s a story like no other and deserves more attention and fame considering the various aspects of human character shown by Francis Ngannou. Needless to say, the Predator is an inspiration to many.
Ngannou competed in his first professional fight back in November of 2013, winning the fight via submission in the very first round. However, Ngannou faced setbacks in his next fight, losing to Zoumana Cisse via unanimous decision in a two-round fight in Paris, France.
However, that was the last fight that Ngannou lost in the regional circuit, and made his way to the UFC in 2015, just two years after his professional debut.
After entering the UFC, Ngannou picked up a brutal KO win over Luis Henrique in December of 2015 and followed it up with a TKO win over Curtis Blaydes. Ngannou did not stop here, as he stopped former champion Andrei Arlovski and MMA veteran Alistair Overeem, to earn his first title opportunity against Stipe Miocic at UFC 220.
Ngannou shares how he was not even experienced enough to take on someone like Miocic and go through a fight camp for the championship gold.
“When I looked back at it I felt upset. I was still very new to the sport. I didn’t have as much experience and I was pressuring myself. It was just a lot going on.”
Ngannou suffered the first loss of his UFC career in a unanimous decision loss to heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic. Needless to say, the emotional turmoil of the first loss carried forward to his next fight, as he suffered yet another loss at the hands of Derrick Lewis at UFC 226.
The return of the Predator
Ngannou made a comeback in a manner that replicates his initial rise in the UFC. However, this was a much smarter and more ferocious Ngannou who cruised past Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos, and Jairzinho Rozenstruik, picking up four back to back first-round finishes to his name.
Since the loss to Lewis, Ngannou has picked up three Performance of the Night bonuses to his name. Ngannou reveals that in preparation for his rematch against Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight gold, he moved back to Paris for three weeks and has made significant changes to his game.
“It’s way more different. The first time wasn’t just the time. I wasn’t ready. When I look back at that time “what the f**k was this”. This is not how you get to fight for the title, to become a world champion, This is not how you get prepared. This is not how is. Nothing was right in that. Then I get it in the short notice under six weeks away. I did not know what to do. I just moved to Vegas. Did not have my spot by the time. So 3 weeks before the fight I had to move back to Paris.”
Francis Ngannou picks up a brutal KO win over Stipe Miocic to become the UFC Heavyweight Champion
Needless to say, the adjustments and the improvements paid off as Ngannou finished Stipe Miocic in the rematch at UFC 260 to become the heavyweight champion of the world. In the process, he not only avenged his loss to arguably the greatest heavyweight of all time, but also became only the fourth fighter to beat Miocic inside the UFC Octagon.
Ngannou’s rise is nothing less than a Hollywood. It won’t be wrong to say that what Ngannou has achieved despite the many adversities he has faced in his entire life, seems impossible. However, Ngannou stands as an example that if you put in the work and follow your path, success will come knocking at your door.
Francis Ngannou retirement plans
Despite becoming a global superstar, Ngannou still feels close to his homeland. Ngannou still goes back to Cameroon and reminisces about his life growing up in Africa. Today, he has fulfilled his dream of living in the United States. He resides with his mother in Las Vegas.
Ngannou did not have a very happy childhood, and it’s a party due to this reason that he shared on a recent episode of UFC embedded that he wants to do something for the kids after his retirement.
“I can’t go there and live in the five-star hotel and do some crazy stuff, I don’t enjoy that as much, I don’t know how to explain it, but I always do it. I always go back to the sand mine, it’s like a tradition.”
“Most of the kids give up because nobody cares about them”
The Predator started the “Francis Ngannou Foundation” to put gyms in his motherland of Cameroon. Ngannou is an inspiration to his homeland and a lesson to the entire world that if you really want, you can achieve anything in your life.