The heartbreaking yet inspiring life story of former UFC Champion Francis Ngannou

The heartbreaking yet inspiring life story of former UFC Champion Francis Ngannou

Francis Ngannou has captured the hearts and minds of millions worldwide. The Cameroonian fighter not only conquered the UFC heavyweight division but also transitioned to a completely different sport and almost defeated one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time.

Despite his loss to Tyson Fury, “The Predator” has cemented himself a spot at the pinnacle of combat sports. To get there, Ngannou had to go through an arduous journey filled with tremendous sacrifice, equipped only with an iron will and ungodly power in both hands.

Francis Ngannou’s life before combat sports

Screengrab via Top Rank Boxing/YouTube

Francis Ngannou was born in Batié, a small village in western Cameroon. His parents divorced when he was just six (per ESPN). By age 10, he was living with his aunt and performed grueling labor at a sand mine. In 2021, Ngannou recounted this experience with Joe Rogan. “I always feel like I missed my childhood,” Ngannou said. He elaborated further, explaining the constant frustrations that surrounded him as a child. “When school starts … I go to school, and most of the time [I] still didn’t have a pen to take note [sic] or a notebook to write on it. Sometimes, no shoes or clothes.”

These hardships never stopped a young Ngannou from dreaming big. In his early 20s, he began training in boxing. The future champion, an admirer of Mike Tyson, was inspired to chase greatness by leaving Cameroon and traveling to France when he was 25. “He was the youngest guy to be the champion, 18 or 19 or something like that, and I knew I couldn’t do what he did,” Ngannou once explained (per Yahoo Sports). “But I still believed that I could do something great.” In a cinematic twist of fate, Mike Tyson would help train Ngannou for his bout with Tyson Fury.

Ngannou’s harrowing journey to France cannot be understated. In a 2022 cover story, ESPN detailed the monumental obstacles he had to overcome in order to reach France. Ngannou’s 14-month trek forced him to cross over 3,000 miles and go through the Sahara desert. He also did multiple stints in jails in Morocco and Spain — he was apprehended several times before finally reaching France. By the time he set foot in Paris, he was homeless and sleeping on the streets.

Ngannou had the good fortune of meeting Didier Carmont, a man who worked at a boxing gym. Carmont provided Ngannou with a small apartment and initial financial assistance. Carmont was also the one to tell Ngannou about the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA). Ngannou had no idea what MMA was and insisted boxing was his sole destiny, once again citing Mike Tyson as his inspiration.

However, destiny intervened and eventually brought Ngannou to Ferdinand Lopez’s MMA Factory. Then, well, the world was introduced to “The Predator.”

What are Francis Ngannou’s fighting records?

Ngannou joined the UFC in 2015 with a 5-1 professional MMA record. With little to no grappling expertise, Ngannou carved through the heavyweight division, relying on his awesome punching power. In December 2017, he arguably produced one of the most iconic images in the sport’s history after landing a vicious uppercut on Alistair Overeem. After knocking out the Dutch veteran in emphatic fashion in the first round, Ngannou was awarded a title shot a mere month later against one of the greatest, if not the greatest, MMA heavyweights of all time, UFC champion Stipe Miocic. Unfortunately, “The Predator” would lose to Miocic who won via unanimous decision, leaving Ngannou to climb back through the rankings.

He eventually returned to the heavyweight spotlight in March 2021, knocking out Miocic in their highly-anticipated rematch, winning the heavyweight championship, and showing stellar improvements with his takedown defense in the process. A year later, Ngannou would defend his title and defeat former teammate Ciryl Gane before leaving the UFC, becoming one of the few fighters in history who got to leave the organization while they were still a champion.

Ngannou’s current MMA record is 17-3, with only one of his victories coming via decision. During his UFC career, he defeated the likes of Curtis Blaydes, Andrei Arlovski, Cain Velasquez, and Junior dos Santos. The only tragedy of Ngannou’s UFC run is that we never got to see him step into the cage against the UFC heavyweight champion, Jon Jones.

At face value, Ngannou’s professional boxing record (0-1) may look weak or downright atrocious when compared to his iconic MMA run. However, taking on one of the best boxers of his generation and one of the best heavyweights of all time in his first professional boxing match is impressive in and of itself. Knocking Tyson Fury down and almost winning a contested decision against him is not only impressive but historic.

What is Francis Ngannou’s net worth?

After landing the bout with Tyson Fury, one of Ngannou’s representatives, Marquel Martin, alleged that his earnings from the fight dwarfed all 14 of his UFC paydays combined. Fury himself stated that Ngannou was set to make $10,000,000 for their clash. Not bad for one’s first boxing match.

Celebrity Net Worth puts Ngannou’s current net worth at $15,000,000, though, at best, this has to be considered a rough estimation. In 2023, after losing his bout with Fury, several sites began claiming Ngannou’s net worth to be at least over $5,000,000.

“The Predator” is set to make millions upon his eventual MMA return. Ngannou is currently signed with the Professional Fighters League, and his contract with the organization “guarantees a ‘high 7-figure’ purse for each fight” (per Bloody Elbow). On top of this, Ngannou’s new contract ensures that the PFL will “pay his opponents a minimum of a $2 million payday” (via MMA Fighting).

From laboring at a sand mine as a child to living on the streets of Paris to capturing UFC gold and nearly knocking out the heavyweight boxing champion of the world to securing one of the most lucrative MMA contracts in the history of the sport, Francis Ngannou’s story is simply an inspiring and legendary one.

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