Many great champions arose from an inhospitable environment, but Francis Ngannou was perhaps the poorest of the poor.
What I experienced was not childhood
He grew up in the Cameroonian village of Batié. His father was a local street fighter and rapist, and his family was the victim of his aggression. His wife divorced him when Francis was six years old. “Becoming a good person was really easy. It was enough to do everything like my father, just the opposite. He was important to me in this regard. He showed me what kind of person I don’t want to be, ”Ngannou said repeatedly.
After the divorce, he stayed with his mother, grew up with his aunt and grandmother. From the age of 10, he worked on school leave to help the family finance at least the basic needs. He didn’t have many options, so especially during the rainy season, when the robot was the heaviest and the workforce less, he helped in the quarry to extract sand.
“I hated the place where I grew up. I hated sand quarrying. I hated my life. I was hoping someone would come and get me out of there, ”Nganna said in Joe Rogan’s podcast. There were few job opportunities in the quarry, earnings were not enough for enough food or school supplies.
He walked to school for two hours on a torn uniform and shoes: “The others mocked me. I didn’t have a pen or a notebook. The teacher kicked me out of class saying I was irresponsible. She didn’t believe we had money for those things. I had breakfast as late as possible so that the food would last me as long as possible. I envied the others when they went on vacation or had new things. My childhood basically passed me by. I wouldn’t call that what I experienced. ”
Martyria on the run to Europe
As an admirer of Mike Tyson, Ngannou dreamed of a boxing career in the USA. At the age of 22, despite his family’s reluctance, he began training. After a year, however, he fell ill and stopped. He worked as a truck unloader or taxi driver to put something on the table: “It was just survival, not life.”
“If you can’t affect your environment, change the environment,” Ngannou said, emigrating at age 26. He didn’t report his family. He just visited her in case she didn’t survive the difficult journey. And she is already worthy of a feature film.
VIDEO: Perfectly processed document with multiple statements by Ngannou:
With a few savings, he needed to get from Cameroon through Nigeria, Niger, Algeria, Morocco to Spain without visas and the necessary documentation. Bribes were often not enough for the border police, they stripped migrants naked and took away all their valuables. Ngannou even swallowed some of the savings packed in a plastic bag during the trip, so that customs officers or smugglers would not deprive him of all the money at once.
On the way to Morocco, he crossed the Sahara with another 24 refugees in a pick-up truck. Water supplies would slow them down, they had run out of the way halfway: “At one point, the only source of water was the young in which the dead animals lay. I could have died after drinking, but I knew that if I didn’t drink, I would die anyway. So I used a T-shirt as a filter and drank. ”
In the Moroccan forests, he was waiting for the right moment to try to penetrate Spain. They hunted game or ate garbage with other migrants. “I went to groceries at night. Then there was a chance that I would find something in the trash. Sometimes I had to fight for food with rats. ‘Leave that tomato! It’s mine, not yours, ‘I argued with them,’ “Ngannou said in Rogan’s podcast.
The hardest part was just waiting for him, the transition from Morocco to Spain. There are two options. On land to Spanish cities on the African continent of Ceuta and Melilla through the mobile and pedestrian guards and barbed wire blockades. Or by water across the Coast Guard. After trying the first alternative, Ngannou ended up with several lacerations when he became tangled in barbed wire.
He had two options. Bleed or go to the hospital, where the police catch him. Before the medics sewed all his wounds, the police dragged him to the very south of Morocco back into the desert. Here they left him without food and water, 15 kilometers from the nearest village. This is common practice. When they catch the refugees, they return from the desert to their country or go through everything again.
After six unsuccessful attempts, Ngannou had a trick. He thought of wrapping the inflatable boat in aluminum foil to avoid radar escape with the other fugitives. And they secured a Spanish SIM card. When they got close enough to Spain, they called for help and the Red Cross answered instead of the Moroccan Coast Guard.
He spent the next two months in prison for illegally entering Spanish soil, but was then released with refugee status. Spain does not extradite prisoners to Cameroon. Despite the “mental terror”, he described being in prison as a relief compared to a painful journey. He knew that in the end he would be free in Europe and closer to a boxing dream. The journey from Cameroon, including the stay behind the bars, took 14 months.
He was homeless, he considered MMA bullshit
After his release, he lived as a homeless man. First in Spain, then he got illegally by train to France. “I slept in multi-storey car parks. Yes, no glory, but compared to the forests in Morocco, it was like a five-star hotel. I was free and had the opportunity to change my life. I didn’t need anything else, “he said in the podcast of his child hero Mike Tyson.
When Ngannou first came to the gym, he said, “I don’t have money, clothes or a roof over my head. Well, I want to do this. ” The strong man boxed without teeth protectors and with borrowed gloves, but he showed talent and will. He earned respect and let him sleep in the gym. Coach Didier Carmont eventually introduced him to the head coach of the MMA Factory, Fernando Lopez, who changed his life.
Ngannou was almost 27 when he started training. It takes significantly longer to build a successful boxing career than in MMA: “At first I asked what MMA is. I’ve never heard of it before. Fernand explained this to me and said, ‘No, I don’t want to deal with such bullshit. I want to box. Mike Tyson boxed … ”
The UFC champion wants more money and Fury
The warrior with the nickname “Predator” finally let himself be spoken and did well. In November 2013, four months after the first practice, he premiered in MMA. After two years with a 5-1 record, he made his UFC debut. He fought for the heavyweight title at the UFC for four and a half years since he first stepped into the gym. He lost to Stip Miocico for points, but three years later last March he knocked out the same opponent after 52 seconds of the 2nd round.
On Sunday morning, we defended our first time against Ciryl Gane. He earned $ 600,000. By comparison, champion of the same division in boxing Tyson Fury earned $ 30 million last year for defending against Deontay Wilder. The boy’s dream of boxing and higher earnings in the ring are the motive for why Ngannou has been dealing with the UFC for a long time over a new contract and why he challenged Fury or Wilder.
“I will not fight for the same money in the UFC. Not for 500 – 600 thousand. If we agree, I want more money and a condition associated with boxing. I won’t end my career without entering the ring. There’s Fury or Wilder, I’d like to compete with someone of their level. Boxing is a different sport, but I can make real bombs and do damage, ”says Ngannou.
“Do you want to come into my world and challenge me or Wilder in boxing? I can guarantee you that you will get the highest payout in your life, but also a knockout. So think about it, ”Fury responded.
He wants to allow Cameroonians to dream
The coming months will tell you more about the future of Ngannou. He definitely has something to say in sports and beyond. He moved from Paris to Las Vegas, but he doesn’t forget where he came from.
In addition to his family, he funds several sports projects in Cameroon so that local talents have the conditions he found after a 14-month journey through hell: “I am building an organization that is not just about sports. The goal is not to educate UFC fighters, but to give children an education, an opportunity to play sports and dream. An opportunity to change your destiny. ”