Francis Ngannou went from being “The Next Big Thing” in the UFC to being labeled a bust in just a few short fights.
On Saturday at UFC Fight Night 141, “The Predator” took some steps to regain some of the luster he lost in forgettable performances against Stipe Miocic and Derrick Lewis earlier this year. Ngannou returned to his previous headhunting form at Cadillac Arena in Beijing, where he stopped the surging Curtis Blaydes in just 45 seconds.
Ngannou’s mentality was questioned after back-to-back bouts in which he looked nothing like the finishing machine he appeared to be during a six-fight winning streak to begin his UFC tenure. Ngannou’s performance against Lewis was especially troubling, as he looked tentative to pull the trigger on the heels of his first promotional defeat.
That was not an issue in Beijing.
“I came back tonight to have fun,” Ngannou said at Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “My last fight wasn’t that good, just because I was too concerned about what’s going to happen. I put a lot of stuff in my mind. Then, after that, I took time and thought about why I started this sport. Because, at the beginning, my dream was to become a world-class boxer.
“And then I stepped into MMA. And why did I step into MMA, it was to have fun. I had to kind of remind myself what was the purpose, what was the goal – first of all, have fun. Then I came here tonight about having fun. It happened really great, which is good. I didn’t get any damage, so I’m ready to go.”
Ngannou has learned from past experience, and he claims that he won’t become complacent following a dominant knockout victory. In the past, he may have fallen into the trap of thinking victory would always come so easily.
“I think the motivation came from many things. When you have a win like this it’s good,” Ngannou said. “But it’s kind of tricky sometimes. You think it’s very easy…but you realize you get this opponent where you realize it’s not that easy.”
Ngannou realizes he still has work to do to erase the memory of his past defeats. So when asked if he’d like a shot at the heavyweight title next, the Cameroonian-born Frenchman offered a realistic perspective. Instead, he’s aiming for a shot at the man he previously held the belt.
“Right now, [Cormier] is the champ of the division,” Ngannou said. “And then, for my last few fights, I didn’t do great. So I don’t think I’m going to have a chance now. So, [between these] two fighters, I’ll take the one that I can have – [it] would be Stipe.”