Francis Ngannou’s 45-second demolition of Curtis Blaydes at UFC Beijing last month sent the message that “The Predator” was back, but his head coach has an idea why Ngannou had been struggling to begin with. Ngannou headed into his fight with Blaydes on a two-fight skid, having lost to Stipe Miocic in his bid for the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight title back in January. That was followed by an oddly gun-shy performance against Derrick Lewis in July, in a fight reviled by fans and UFC President Dana White alike as one of the most boring high-level fights in memory. According to FightMetric, the fight featured the second lowest total strikes landed in a three-round UFC fight, and Ngannou landed only 11. Lewis blamed his chronic back injuries as the reason he didn’t perform, but Ngannou’s performance was more puzzling.
White suggested Ngannou’s ego was “out of control” following his loss to Lewis, but Ngannou’s head coach, Fernand Lopez, has an alternate theory. One thing that “The Predator” did differently for his fights with Miocic and Lewis was train at the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas instead of in France with his regular teammates. According to Lopez, it could have been why he performed poorly in both fights.
Lopez spoke to Bloody Elbow recently and seemed to blame the training in Las Vegas for his fighter’s losses:
“Francis Ngannou did all his camps in Paris; he was winning all the fights,” Lopez said. “When he went to Vegas in PI, then he had the problem losing to Stipe. Then he had the second fight in the PI and he lost [to Lewis].
“We worked a lot to have this victory,” Lopez added. “We really did have a good camp. Two months of hard camp. We tried to work on everything on the mental side, on the conditioning, on the skills. The work paid off. He showed that he’s still there for a long time. He’s not going anywhere.”