Wednesday, August 08, 2018

UFC heavyweight Francis Ngannou suffered one of the most jarring promotional shifts in memory.

Born into destitution in Cameroon, Ngannou started working in a sand mine at age 12. It was something like life on the wheel that Schwarzenegger marches around in the beginning of Conan 1. Determined to become the boxing champion of the world, he went to Paris, homeless, before finding an MMA gym run by a fellow Cameroonian, where he was allowed to sleep on the mats. Dana White said he thought Ngannou was the next big thing. By the time he got a title shot vs. then champion Stipe Miocic, the UFC publicity machine so focused on Ngannou that Miocic said it was “obvious” who the UFC wanted to win. 

Then Ngannou lost. Then instead of bouncing back in storybook fashion, he lost an enormously boring decision to Derrick Lewis at UFC 226. At the post-fight press conference, UFC president Dana White said the fighter let his ego ran away with him "big-time." 

A month on, during a recent appearance on the UFC Unfiltered podcast, White remained scathing.

“Francis Ngannou at the time he was coming up, I believed this guy was going to be the guy, was going to be the heavyweight champion,” said White, as transcribed by MMAjunkie. “He lost his mind. This guy completely lost his mind and started to act – I don’t know – in a way you just don’t act. I completely saw it coming. Obviously, Francis Ngannou is a massive, strong, hard-hitting guy, and anything can happen when he gets in there, but Stipe had this thing where he feels completely disrespected. This guy’s always on fire and pissed off at the world and pissed off at us. I saw that coming. I knew he was going [to win].

“Francis Ngannou left the training center here where he trained for previous fights, took off to France, was in France training or doing whatever he was doing leading up to the Stipe fight because he absolutely, positively knew he was going to be beat Stipe.”

“Ngannou has a lot – I don’t know – he has a lot of things he needs to fix personally and professionally. We’ll see if he ever gets back on track again.”

When White spoke out against him post UFC 226, Ngannou said he was hurt by the remarks, and that if White had an issue with him, it would ideally be expressed personally. It's unlikely that stance has changed.