Today, Francis Ngannou is one of the most successful heavyweights in the UFC. Not all that long ago, however, he was struggling to get by in a remote corner of Cameroon.
Fuelled by his unshakable ambition, Ngannou ultimately decided to leave Cameroon. After stopping for a time in Morocco, he ultimately wound up in France. But when he left his village, he had no idea where he was going to end up. He couldn’t even give his family a proper goodbye.
Francis Ngannou opened up on his harrowing departure from his former life in an incredible interview with Miesha Tate and Ryan McKinnell on Sirius XM (transcript via MMA Mania).
Francis Ngannou: It wasn’t exciting because I didn’t know where I was going! I didn’t have a map. I couldn’t even tell them goodbye, because when you say, ‘okay, I’m leaving’, the first question is ‘where are you going?’ and I couldn’t tell anybody where I am going, so I couldn’t say goodbye to nobody. I just go visit my family. I stayed with my mom in my village for like three weeks. I was, like, looking at them like sometime like, this might be the last time that I’m seeing them. Because, you know, some people go there and some never come back, they died.
Ngannou: Basically I knew that if I tell them, no one will accept that. I always have crazy dream, they always saw me as very ambitious, like over high, and I was like, I’m not gonna tell them, they know that people go there and someone die..
Interviewers: What did you tell them?
Interviewer: You just disappeared?
Francis Ngannou last fought in February, when he burst into title contention with a knockout win over the former champion Cain Velasquez. He’s now arguably the top contender in the heavyweight division — though Junior dos Santos can also lay claim to that status.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 3/14/2019.