New coach: I see no ego issues with Francis Ngannou

Born into extreme poverty in Cameroon, UFC heavyweight Francis Ngannou started working in a sand mine at age 12. Determined to become the boxing champion of the world, he went to Paris, where he was homeless before walking into MMA Fight Factory, a gym run by a fellow Cameroonian; founder and coach Fernand Lopez allowed Ngannou to sleep on the mats.

UFC president 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. Ngannou had moved to Las Vegas, and was training at the UFC PI, but Lopez remained as his coach.

Then Ngannou lost. Then he had switched trainers from Lopez to Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas. But instead of bouncing back in storybook fashion, ‘The Predator’ 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.” White received some criticism for the remarks, but Ngannou’s former coach echoed the remarks.

However, Ngannou’s new coach, Syndicate MMA owner John Wood, told Marc Raimondi for MMA Fighting that he saw no such thing.

“Francis is always a pleasure,” said ‘Big’ Wood. “Nicest guy, funny dude, always enjoyed having him around. Great to have him in the gym, always playing with the kids. Just a good dude, man. I never had any experience like that with him at all.”

“You can’t ever really be taken by surprise by what Dana says. It’s one of those things, you never know what Dana is gonna say. That’s his thing, to make headlines. He feels a certain way about certain things and he spoke about it. I don’t know what their personal interactions were or had been to that point, but Francis has always been a pleasure for me to be around and never been different toward me. But different people have different interactions. Sometimes people say things that they don’t exactly mean in the moment and they’re pissed off. Everybody was kind of pissed off after that fight. But yeah, nothing is ever shocking with Dana.”

“He’s still learning, he’s still growing,. And yes, he’s still green. That dude is a freak. It’s a freak how fast he learns, how strong. In another year or two, if he keeps moving the way he is, yeah he’s gonna be an unstoppable force. But some people take to it quicker. There’s just little pieces that need to click. But if he goes out there and starches Stipe with one punch, then … we’d be thinking he’s the best fighter there’s ever been, that kind of thing.”

Ngannou’s next fight is a rematch vs. Curtis Blaydes on November 25 at UFC Fight Night 141 at Cadillac Arena in Beijing, China.