Francis Ngannou is mixed martial arts fighter. The Cameroonian fighter has a punch that is the equivalent of 96 horsepower or getting hit by a Ford Escort going as fast as it can.
20 seconds, 1 minute and 11 seconds, 26 seconds and 45 seconds. Those times are how long several of his fights lasted in the UFC. He hits someone and they go to sleep.
To call him a knockout machine is accurate. In his first opportunity for a UFC title, he ran out of gas and ended up losing the fight. When he earned the opportunity for a rematch, with the same champion, Stipe Miocic, approximately three years later, he adjusted from the first fight and knocked Miocic out in the second round.
A man from humble beginnings, Ngannou was on top of the world.
When it came time o renegotiate his contract with the UFC the two sides couldn’t seem to get on the same page. It wasn’t simply about the money, Ngannou wanted the option of being able to box as well. Why wouldn’t he? He saw Conor McGregor do it with Floyd Mayweather and he wanted to capitalize on that. Dana White, UFC President, said no, so Francis Ngannou asked for his release thus relinquishing his heavyweight title.
It was then announced he would box Tyson Fury. Tyson Fury who held a professional boxing record of 33 wins and no losses with one draw. Tyson Fury who strands 6’9 to Ngannou’s 6’4.
The fight would took place Saudi Arabia. It featured a who’s who of the sports and entertainment industry in attendance. It was a forgone conclusion that Ngannou would lose, after all he had never boxed before. It was thought that he probably didn’t have the cardio to go the distance and Fury was too skilled for him. Everyone thought he would lose.
Ngannou had the good sense to recruit Mike Tyson as his trainer and he prepared for the fight under the tutelage of Iron Mike.
When Ngannou was walking to the ring he was joined by Israel Adesyna and Kamaru Usman. These men were known as The Three Kings in the UFC as at one time all three held UFC titles and all are of African descent (Adesanya, Middleweight and Usman, Welterweight). What was also impressive about the visual is that Usman had lost a fight the weekend before but still showed up for his friend.
When the pageantry gave way and the fight started Ngannou didn’t look like a novice as he held his own against Fury. In the third round he shocked the world as he knocked Fury down. Throughout the entire fight Ngannou was never knocked down but somehow the judging went to Fury on a split decision.
While we can debate the legitimacy of judging in boxing one thing is clear, the guy that was supposed to get whooped did anything but. Ngannou was poised, prepared and most of all competitive.
The lesson here isn’t go start boxing but to believe in yourself. Francis Ngannou was in a position where he felt the UFC was holding him back and stifling his dreams and as a result, he went his own way. We should all be so brave.
Francis Ngannou, may not have won that fight but he captured the heart and imagination of many on that night. Because regardless of the official decision nothing about that performance had him come away as a loser.
Francis Ngannou walked away from a UFC championship to bet on himself and that is why I find him fascinating.