1) Enter Sandman
Francis Ngannou, a big man, was born and raised in the tiny village of Batié, Cameroon. A mountainous region, Batié is known for its sand production and Ngannou started working in one of its many sand quarries at the tender age of 10
2) Crossing Borders
At 26, Ngannou headed for France with the aim of pursuing a career in professional boxing. However, after reaching Europe, he was jailed for two months in Spain for illegally crossing the border by sea.
3) Down and out in Paris
After Ngannou finally reached Paris, he had nothing: no money, no friends, and nowhere to live. For a time, he was forced to live homeless on the streets of the French capital.
4) Journey into MMA
While he was living in Paris, Ngannou met Francis Carmont, a mixed martial artist from France, who in turn introduced him to Fernand Lopez, another Cameroonian living in France, and the MMA Factory. It was there Ngannou’s MMA journey would begin.
5) New Beginnings
To little or no fanfare, Ngannou started his MMA career in November 2013, competing in the French promotion 100% Fight, as well as other regional promotions in Europe. He soon compiled a record of 5-1 and eventually signed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
6) The Big League
With hype slowly starting to build, albeit solely in Europe, Ngannou made his UFC debut against fellow newcomer Luis Henrique on December 19, 2015. It was a fight he won via second-round knockout.
7) Uppercut from Hell
In terms of the fight that put Ngannou on the map, there can be little doubt the hellacious uppercut he landed on the chin of Alistair Overeem at UFC 218 in December 2017 did the job. Considered by some to be the scariest knockout in UFC history, Ngannou’s power and potential was clear for all to see after that.
8) Champion of the World
Despite having lost against Stipe Miocic (by decision) when they met for the first time in January 2018, Ngannou fared much better when they reconvened in March 2021, this time catching Miocic in the second round to win the UFC heavyweight title and complete his rags to riches story.
9) The Last Fight
Ten months after beating Miocic to win heavyweight gold, Ngannou fought interim UFC heavyweight champion Ciryl Gane in his first title defence, booked for 22 January 2022 at UFC 270. He won this fight by decision, having gone the full five rounds, which marked the first time Ngannou had ever won a fight by decision in his career.
10) Giving Back
The Francis Ngannou Foundation built the first ever MMA gym in Cameroon, its aim to offer facilities for young Cameroonians to have a place to train. “I want to give some opportunity for children like me who dream of this sport and don’t have an opportunity like me,” Ngannou said.