Last Saturday night, in the main event of UFC 220, Francis Ngannou’s hype train came to a skittering halt, as he was out-wrestled, out-paced, and altogether out-fought by UFC heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic. In the pre-fight promotion for this bout, Ngannou was sold as an unparalleled force of destruction, an unstoppable behemoth, the second coming of Mike Tyson. And yet in the end, he looked about as human as a professional cage fighter can look: out of breath, bewildered, bruised, beaten.
While UFC color commentator Joe Rogan was one of the biggest contributors to Francis Ngannou’s massive pre-fight hype, he is now saying that he’s heard Ngannou didn’t even train grappling ahead of UFC 220. Rogan made this claim on the Monday episode of The JRE MMA Show Podcast.
“Before, everyone was saying, ‘Oh my God, he’s in tremendous shape, everything is amazing,’” Rogan said (transcribed by MMAJunkie.com). “Then afterwards it’s like, ‘Oh, he doesn’t train on the ground.’ What? He doesn’t train on the ground? They go, ‘All he wants to do is strike.’ You can’t let him do that. You can’t let him.”
“He’s going to fight a Division-1 wrestler,” he continued. “How is he going to do this? How is going to stand up? He’s going to magically get up? You have to train it.”
If it is true that Francis Ngannou neglected to train on the ground ahead of UFC 220, hopefully this is a mistake he doesn’t repeat. He has, after all, repeatedly referred to his loss to Miocic as the greatest learning experience of his career thus far.
“I’ve been in this sport only four years, and I know I’ll keep learning and improving,” Ngannou said at the UFC 220 post-fight press conference. “What happened tonight was the last step for me to learn about this sport, because it’s the only thing I’ve never faced – a five-round fight, and how to deal with it. I made a mistake, and that will not happen again.”
“I came here today to win the fight,” he continued. “I just discovered a new part [of the game] that I was ignorant about.”
“The problem is I underestimated my opponent, and I went too hard in the first round, and he was tougher than I thought. So [Miocic] resisted, and he put together a better game plan than me.”
“I’m going to keep improving and come back stronger than I was,” Ngannou concluded. “I learned more [in this fight] than I did in the past four years.”
What do you think comes next for Francis Ngannou?
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 1/23/2018.