From the sand mines and homelessness in France, Francis Ngannou has overcome everything and entered a world of crisp suits and headlining UFC 220. Ngannou’s journey has been nothing short of incredible, but it’s not just about him, it’s about where he came from. His rise to success leads hopeful footsteps that people back home can follow. Whether that dream be fighting for a UFC championship, or simply finishing school, Ngannou wants to show generations of people that anything is possible.
“This is going to close the chapter of my childhood and teenage years. All that time I have been frustrated with my whole life, with a feeling that I was always the last one who never had a chance. So I want to close that. I want to leave that behind me. This journey now is not only mine, it’s for all Cameroonians and for the whole of Africa and all of France, too. In Africa, when I started the journey, I was by myself. No one believed me at that time, and today all of them believe in me and they almost rely on me. It’s very important, because I can bring hope to someone or help someone to be ambitious and tell them that everything is possible.”
— UFC (@ufc) January 16, 2018
“See where I’m from and see where I am today, this inspires a lot of people and gets a lot of people excited, so that they want to do something by themselves. In Africa, in many parts of the continent, people do not allow themselves to dream, because what they dream of; it’s unreal, but I’m just trying to show that everything is possible. That dream, you can allow yourself. You have a right. It doesn’t matter what was the beginning or how you began. What’s more important is where you arrive. As long as you prepare for your arrival and you have the right mind set, you can do it. That gives me motivation because I am not fighting just for me. I am fighting for all the people watching; trusting me, relying on me. They need to see me succeed to believe they can succeed. That gives me strength.” — Francis Ngannou speaking to Bloody Elbow.
Of course, Francis Ngannou would love to win the UFC heavyweight title and take it back to Africa. It would be a storybook ending to a story that has movie rights written all over it. However, even if the contender falls short and can not dethrone Stipe Miocic, he still gets $500K just to show up. It may not be a gold belt, it may not fulfill the prophecy that the UFC has predicted for Ngannou, but it’s still a helluva victory for the man who has walked through hell and back for his shot.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 1/17/2018.