Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Just over four years ago, UFC heavyweight Francis Ngannou was homeless in Paris. In August of 2013, be began training for free in MMA at MMA Factory; owner/coach Fernand Lopez Owonyebe let him sleep in the gym. Three months later Ngannou had his first MMA fight, winning via armbar. Two weeks later he fought again, losing a decision. Ngannou has finished every opponent since, and is now on a five-fight win streak in the UFC. President Dana White thinks he’s the next big thing.

At UFC 217 on December 2, Ngannou fights #1 contender Alistair Overeem. With a win, he gets a title shot.

His father was a renowned street fighter in the village of Batie, Cameroon, and years of grinding manual labor in his youth left him near eerily strong, but the fighter believes his success has a simpler source still.

“I think the main thing is motivation,” said Ngannou following an open workout at the UFC Performance Institute, as transcribed by Simon Samano and Ken Hathaway for MMAjunkie. “My strength, my power, it’s all about my mind. When I look back where I’m from, look at my family, it’s kind of scary. I want to change things back. I don’t want my kids or my son to live the same thing I lived in my life. That is motivation.”

“When I look at my family, when I look at my mom, I hope I will be able to help her. I hope she will be proud of me. She gave all of what she had for us. That’s my motivation.”

The motivation is tested daily at the state-of-the-art UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas, where Ngannou moved to this year.

“We aren’t working on anything [specifically], because I’m an opportunity fighter,” he explained. “I’m not just a striker. I’m not a wrestler or grappler. I’m a fighter, an opportunity fighter. I like to finish my fight and be able to shape my skills and take every opportunity I get in the fight.”

Werdum said Saturday night that he deserves a title shot.

“Stipe took the belt from Werdum, and that was not a long time ago,” said Ngannou. “Yes, Werdum deserves, but right now I deserve it more. I win this fight, I will be the legit challenger. If I beat the No. 1, there’s no way to avoid it.”