Francis Ngannou wanted to be like Mike Tyson. Ngannou grew up very poor in Cameroon and wanted to make a life for himself. When he was young, he looked up to Mike Tyson – and still does. He knew he would have to find a way to leave his country if he wanted to be like Tyson and make a career in the boxing world. He packed up whatever he had and headed to France where his journey to the UFC began.
Francis Ngannou found MMA by mistake
Growing up, Francis Ngannou wanted to box. After seeing Mike Tyson fight, Ngannou wanted to follow in his footsteps. Ngannou knew he didn’t have a chance making it living in poverty in Cameroon. He knew there were boxers in Cameroon, but they never made anything of themselves. He wanted to be different.
Ngannou packed his bags and headed to France at the age of 26. At 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, Ngannou was alone in Paris. He didn’t have anywhere to go. He just knew he had to leave. “I left Cameroon just to try and have a life, to survive,” Ngannou told MMAjunkie. “When I was in Cameroon, I just didn’t see a way. I could survive, but that’s about it.”
Ngannou stumbled upon MMA Factory in Paris, hoping to learn how to box. “My colleague called me and said there was a huge guy asking to train in the gym,” MMA Factory owner Fernand Lopez told MMAjunkie. “The next day, I got to the gym, and Francis was there. I talked with him, and I gave him two bags full of clothes and stuff like gear and gloves, and I said, ‘Please train MMA.’ The very same day, he did an MMA class for beginners. He didn’t know anything about MMA, but the way he was moving and the way he was thinking – he was so smart and such a fast learner, not to mention so incredibly strong. I knew if he kept training, he could be a champion.”
Ngannou quickly rose to stardom in the UFC
Francis Ngannou took that advice of Fernand Lopez and gave MMA a shot.
“I did not know what is the MMA,” he said in an article in Yahoo! Sports. “I never know about this before.” He worked hard and trained hard. He had a dream of making something of himself and he thought maybe MMA, not boxing, would get him there.
Ngannou has worked hard and wound up making the UFC within three years. “When I started, I had nothing,” he said to Yahoo! Sports. “Nothing. I needed everything. But when you start (to earn money), you starting collecting things: I want this, I want this, I want that. The purpose is not collecting things, though. The purpose is to do something great. Finish the dream you started.
According to UFC.com, Ngannou is ranked No. 2 in the heavyweight division. He sports a 16-3 record and is making a big name for himself. His UFC debut came in December of 2015 and he knocked out Luis Henrique in the second round.
Tyson said he can relate to Ngannou’s beginning
In the latest episode of the podcast Hotboxin’ With Mike Tyson, Francis Ngannou was the guest and he and Tyson spoke about Ngannou’s success in the UFC. Ngannou spoke about how he looked up to Tyson and how he was amazed that a heavyweight could be so fluid. “My motivation was to watch Mike Tyson on YouTube,” Ngannou told Tyson on the podcast. “I was like I’m gonna do this. I’m gonna do this. I’m like how is it possible to be a heavyweight and be so technical? Everything was perfect.
“I don’t know why, but it seemed like I had this voice in my mind that told me it’s going to happen,” he continued. “How? I don’t know, but it’s going to happen. And that was just like six or seven years ago.” Tyson then chimed in. “Your words were your destiny,” Tyson said. “You spoke out your reality.”
Tyson related that to the beginning of his own career. “That’s what happened to me. I was locked up in a juvenile detention center in like 1978 or 1977. I was 12 or 11 and was locked up in juvenile detention and I’d be watching the movie The Greatest and it was cool. As soon as the lights came on, Muhammad Ali came in and everybody looked – I mean the staff, the guards – everybody was like I wanna be like him. The first thing I said was I wanna be like him. I don’t know why I said it. I got high off that rush and said I wanna be like him.”