Francis Ngannou has ‘dream’ to fight in Africa alongside Israel Adesanya and Kamaru Usman
Francis Ngannou’s dreams are in proportion to his gargantuan frame and given his incredible route to the top, you’d be reluctant to bet against him.
The UFC heavyweight champion faces Ciryl Gane in his first title defence next Saturday in what is the most anticipated fight in the division for years.
But the 35-year-old is already eyeing a brighter future with new ground to break and challenges for the ‘Predator’ to prey upon.
Francis Ngannou paraded his belt around Cameroon and is desperate to fight in Africa
The UFC heavyweight champion is taking on Ciryl Gane next Saturday at UFC 270
Pictured with his mother, Ngannou spoke about what it would mean to fight in his homeland
Perhaps it is no surprise that a man who escaped the salt mines of Cameroon to reach Europe on a dinghy and transformed himself from homeless in Paris to becoming a global star – has his gaze on another horizon.
He labels himself and Nigerian-born champions Israel Adesanya and Kamaru Usman the ‘Three Kings’ of the UFC and told Sportsmail of his desire for all three African stars to feature on a card on the continent.
‘It is a big dream. Very hard to happen at this point but you know, with time we’ll figure out a way to make it happen, to fight for our people,’ he said.
‘It is very important for each of us (Usman and Adesanya too), and yes, with the UFC preferably but even without the UFC, that’s going to happen.’
Ngannou’s grand ambitions also stretch to the boxing ring, where he is desperate for a huge cross-over clash against Tyson Fury.
Ngannou won the belt last year when he knocked out Stipe Miocic in the first round
Ngannou told Sportsmail there is no change of mentality from being the hunter to hunted
Ngannou wants to fight alongside Kamaru Usman (right) and Israel Adesanya (left)
The pair have been going back and forth on social media and Ngannou has insisted that any new UFC contract he signs must allow him to box on the side.
He suggested Fury should fight him with MMA rules wearing boxing gloves in the cage.
When asked how the ‘Gypsy King’ would fare in those conditions, Ngannou surmised: ‘Tyson Fury can last very long, he has proved himself he can last a very long time.
‘I don’t know how long he would last but for sure I would throw some bombs at him!’
But thoughts of Fury and a historic event in his motherland must be shelved for now. Ngannou enters UFC 270 as the betting underdog and knows he is facing one of the most exciting talents at heavyweight for some time.
Gane moves like a middleweight in a heavyweight’s body and Ngannou no longer has the burning hunger to win his first championship, having achieved his goal last year in the dethroning of Stipe Miocic.
The 35-year-old says a big event will happen in Africa with the UFC or without them
Ngannou heads into his first UFC heavyweight title defence as the bookies’ underdog
But the 35-year-old insists the fact that the hunter is now the hunted does not change his approach heading into next Saturday night.
‘It doesn’t change my mentality very much, yes I am the champion but when I look at a fight, I don’t care about being a champion,’ he reasoned.
‘I just care about being a better fighter and that has been my goal for a very long time, my approach to the fight.
‘I go to the fight to be the dominant one, not looking at the title or whatever it is. At the end of the day, without the belt you’re still another fighter, if there is an imbalance in that, you will make a mistake somewhere.’
And he also gives little credence to the short period of time the pair spent sparring together three years ago, insisting much has changed since they shared the mat in the Paris gym.
The champion insists he is not truly familiar with Ciryl Gane despite their sparring
‘I am not very familiar with Ciryl Gane, I trained with him for around three weeks and I don’t think this is enough to say you are familiar with someone’, Ngannou insisted.
‘This was also three years ago, everyone has improved and worked on different stuff so it doesn’t mean anything for me.’
It will be fascinating to see whether Ngannou can put away the young, hungry challenger. If he fails, that belt and all those big dreams will slip from his grasp.
Francis Ngannou is an ambassador for Stake.com, one of the leading and fastest-growing cryptocurrency betting and gaming operators worldwide
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