Francis Ngannou's Journey To Becoming UFC Heavyweight Champion Is A Perfect Movie Script
At UFC 260 in Las Vegas, Francis Ngannou became UFC heavyweight champion of the world when he knocked out long-running title holder Stipe Miocic.
After showing some much-improved wrestling defence, 'The Predator' displayed that unrivalled power and put Miocic away in the second round following a brutal striking sequence.
Ngannou has finally realised his dream but it's been a long, difficult road to get to the top of the mountain.
Growing up in the small town of Batie in Cameroon, Ngannou had nothing as a kid and would regularly go hungry.
Raised by his single mother but soon living with his aunt, he had to rummage through bins and fight off rats for food.
With no money, Ngannou was forced to work on a sand quarry at the age of 10 and digged until he was 17 so he could try and provide for his poverty-stricken family.
"You would have to go to the market at night time to go find food in the trash," Ngannou said on the Joe Rogan Experience.
"Sometimes you'd argue with a rat in the trash - 'Get away from this tomato, it's mine, this rotten tomato is mine, not yours.'
"I was about ten years old when I started (mining) in the village.
"Even though that work was meant for adults, but we didn't have any option. We take what we had at the time."
He had to two hours to get to school and did not have funds for basic equipment such as pens or a bag and he later took up other jobs such as being a motorcycle taxi driver to try and make ends meet.
In pursuit of a better life, he decided to leave Cameroon. There was several stop-offs on his journey. On the way to Algeria, he had to drink out a dirty well containing dead animals after crossing the Sahara desert.
He also had his body cut open by a barbed wire and was dropped back to the desert on six different occasions as his attempts were thwarted.
Winding up in Morocco, he then set his sights on entering Spain but was jailed for two months for crossing the border illegally by sea.
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2013: 7 years ago we were freed by Spanish homeland security after spending 2 months in jail for illegally entering Europe by sea. This, after attempting for one year from Morocco. I had nothing by then but a dream and a faith of pursuing it.- Francis Ngannou (@francis_ngannou) June 11, 2020
Some people will always (1/3) pic.twitter.com/ogfyDT5ZNw
tell you that it's too late, that you can't make it, that it's not meant for you, that you're not worth it, or that you can't succeed without them (while their lives aren't an exemple of success). Those voices are always around the corner to make you quit your dream (2/3) pic.twitter.com/844DwaaxbB- Francis Ngannou (@francis_ngannou) June 11, 2020
and maybe your destiny. It's up to you and only you if you let them get to your mind, but you can also reject or ignore the negativities around you and make it in your own way. (3/3) #throwbackthursday pic.twitter.com/4aLC1jpINc- Francis Ngannou (@francis_ngannou) June 11, 2020
When freed he made his way to Paris, France without a penny to his name and not even a bank account. Homeless and living on the streets, the 6ft 4 heavyweight started training for free under Didier Carmont in 2013.
Initially fixed on boxing, he switched to martial arts and had his first fight in November of that year.
He ended up getting his foot in the door at UFC and had his first fight in the company in 2015, producing the first of many devastating knockouts when he sent Luis Henrique into next week.
Ngannou did suffer defeats against Derrick Lewis and Miocic along the way but avenged the latter loss from 2018 in emphatic fashion on Saturday night.
There were incredible scenes in his hometown as they celebrated his historic win.
Ngannou has never forgotten where he came from. Not only does he still help out on that same sand quarry when he returns home, he also set up the 'The Francis Ngannou Foundation', providing a gym back home and giving young people the facilities that he never had access to.
He reflected: "When I started, I had nothing. 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.
"I want to help my family, first, of course, but then I want to give opportunity to children in my country like me who have a dream to become a doctor or something. If I reach my dream, it will give me the opportunity to help those in my country who have their own dreams and nothing else to fulfill them.
"I want to give some opportunity for children like me who dream of this sport and don't have an opportunity like me. The last time I was in Cameroon, I brought a lot of materials for boxing and MMA to open a gym. Now I just bought a big space to start the gym, as well.
"A lot of children now in Cameroon, because of me, they have a dream. They say, 'I will be a champion in MMA. I will do boxing like Francis,' because they saw me when I was young. I didn't have anything. I didn't have any opportunity. And today, they see me, and they are dreaming.
"They are thinking that something is possible. Even when they are so poor, something is possible in life. ... It's not easy. It's so hard, but it's possible.
Ngannou's triumph shows that no matter where you come from and even with the hardships you face, you can achieve greatness.
We eagerly await his inevitable Hollywood film in the coming years but now with gold around his waist, he's still got plenty more Octagon action to come before that.
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