Ngannou didn’t get a performance bonus check, but …

Sunday, December 03, 2017

It’s official, Francis Ngannou is the next big thing.

Remember the scene from Conan the Barbarian, where Arnold spends his childhood on the Wheel of Pain? That’s Ngannou, who spent his childhood in extreme poverty, shoveling sand in Cameroon. He determined to become a boxer like his idol Mike Tyson, and set out for Paris where, homeless, he went from gym to gym, to see if someone would train him for free. Then he walked into MMA Factory where head coach Fernand LopezOwonyebe saw the future; the gym became his home, literally. He had never heard of MMA before.

Ngannou won his first fight on November 30, 2013, and two weeks later lost a decision. He hasn’t lost since, winning ten in a row, the last six in the UFC. That’s incredible in a division so tough no UFC champion has ever successfully defended the belt more than twice. And as the competition gets better, his skills increase even more. Ngannou’s first two UFC fights ended in the second round. The last four haven’t made it past the second minute. Heading into Saturday’s co-main event, Ngannou had won two $50,000 performance bonuses in a row.

The win on Saturday vs. Overeem may well top Hendo’s H-Bomb vs. Bisping as the greatest knockout in league history. White decided to give two Fight of the Nights out, rather the one plus two performance bonuses, which bizarrely left Ngannou without a bonus. However, at the UFC post-fight press conference, UFC president Dana White said the next big thing will be taken care of.

“Trust me, Francis lives at the Performance Institute, and I don’t need him knocking on my f***ing door looking for his bonus,” joked White, as transcribed by Matt Erickson and Mike Bohn for MMAjunkie. “We’ll get him situated.”

White declined to say how big the ‘locker room’ bonus would be, but Ngannou said he could use it.

“That’s a good thing,” said Ngannou. “I do need that money. I moved from Paris to Vegas, so that took a lot of money. I need some money now. And I was out for 10 months. And to be honest, every one of you guys loves money too.”

And he doesn’t want to wait long to fight again.

“As soon as possible,” said Ngannou. “I’m injury-free, so I’m ready to go. I’ve been out a long time – like 10 months – and now I want to.

“I have a thousand things to do in MMA. I’m going to do a good training camp because Stipe is a champ. He’s a good guy. He’s doing well, so I need to prepare and have a good training camp.

“I’ll probably also go to Paris for a while and do some of my training camp there. I’ll go to Cameroon and visit my family and keep helping them too.”

“First of all, I want to be the first African to have a UFC belt. I want to be the one to open the UFC in Africa, basically in Cameroon. I want Cameroon to be the first country in Africa to [host] the UFC. It’d be good. It’d be honor for me.”

At the UFC 218 ceremonial weigh-ins, Ngannou made a promise to Overeem.

“You will sleep,” he whispered.

Now he gets a title shot at division champion Stipe Miocic, and he offered another prediction.

“The fight between me and Stipe, it will go the same way as the other ones – knockout,” he said. “The biggest win of my career is coming.”

Ngannou’s drive may be unequaled. He’s propelled forward by poverty unimaginable to the average American. And he’s pulled by the desire to give back.

“I want to give some opportunity for children like me who dream of this sport and don’t have an opportunity like me,” he said. “The last time I was in Cameroon, I brought a lot of materials for boxing and MMA to open a gym. Now I just bought a big space to start the gym, as well.

“A lot of children now in Cameroon, because of me, they have a dream. They say, ‘I will be a champion in MMA. I will do boxing like Francis,’ because they saw me when I was young. I didn’t have anything. I didn’t have any opportunity. And today, they see me, and they are dreaming. They are thinking that something is possible. Even when they are so poor, something is possible in life. … It’s not easy. It’s so hard, but it’s possible.”