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Head coach: #1 priority for Francis Ngannou was ...

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Francis Ngannou, Stipe Miocic

UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou's head coach Eric Nicksick appeared recently on MMA Junkie Radio, and talked about his main priority heading into the title challenge rematch vs. Stipe Miocic. In the first fight, Ngannou was impatient, and gassed. In the rematch he was calm, composed, and victorious.

“That’s all by design,” said Nicksick. “If our corner from the walkout, from the locker room, in the corner when the fight is going on, if we are nervous and yelling and screaming and screaming and making our fighter not calm and come out of that gameplan, we’re doing ourselves a disservice.

“So we spoke about that, about how important that was. I didn’t want a bunch of guys yelling, even [Kamaru] Usman for a bit was like ‘Ahhh,’ and I was like, ‘Hey, nothing. Don’t say nothing,’ because we wanted to keep that same measured approach. If one guy starts going crazy and yelling something, then you reflect that onto your fighter, so it was very important for us to kind of remain calm and keep that our main priority.

“We had it broken down like an outline systematically on how we wanted to approach this fight. No. 1 was cage control. Get in the cage, apply dominance and keep that center of that cage, and everything fell into place as the gameplan unfolded. And that’s exactly what he did. He listened to everything we had to say, and that’s when you start seeing that snowball effect.”

Another key to the win was Ngannou's ability to stifle Miocic's wrestling.

“I have to give credit to Dennis [Davis] and Nate [Pettit] and those guys that run that wrestling room [at Xtreme Couture],” said Nicksick. “Those guys ran those practices, and we were able to take our gameplan, talk to the coaching staff and say, ‘Hey, this is what we’re trying to implement and how we want to improve in these areas.’ They ran practice and drills based on what we wanted to do for this fight, and you saw it first-hand.

“We didn’t want to get into this engagement of wrestling, but we also wanted him to understand what our weight felt like. If you failed in a shot, how does the weight feel when we sprawl on top of you? How do we spin out the back? But more importantly. we’re going to make your ass pay for when you come in here. You don’t get to come in here for free. So if I continue to shoot and I don’t get punished for it, I’m going to keep coming back and I’m going to continue to stick my hand in the cookie jar. But if you get hit in the mouth, you’re going to pay, and you’re going to think about coming back here again. So all of our thought process that we wanted to implement in that very first takedown, it was very important for us. It was like we’re going to stop this s*** now, and we’re going to make you pay for it and not want to come back here again.”

h/t Danny Segura for MMA Junkie