The First Take crew is showering new UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou with the ultimate praise.
Francis Ngannou made history as the first man from Cameroon to become a UFC champion when he knocked out Stipe Miocic at UFC 260. In doing so, the continent of Africa now has three current champions on the UFC roster. The feeling of joy Ngannou had for achieving those two things has been articulated by Ngannou in the aftermath of the event, and he has already been commended far and wide for his improvements, his approach, and his achievement.
In an appearance on ESPN’s First Take on Monday, host Stephen A. Smith threw one more massive heap of praise Ngannou’s way.
“I caught your knockout on Saturday. I called it the greatest thing that’s ever happened to the UFC,” Smith told Ngannou. “Because when you’re the heavyweight champion of the world and you come into the Octagon with bad intentions like Mike Tyson did in boxing, like George Foreman did before him, that’s the greatest thing for a pugilistic sport.”
There’s been some big things to happen in the nearly 30-year history of the UFC: becoming sanctioned by state athletic commissions after being viewed as a bloodsport, women finally being allowed to compete in the promotion after 20 years, Conor McGregor’s rise to fame, the partnership with ESPN, just to name a few. But Smith’s argument comes with the premise that nothing can match the impact of a mainstream heavyweight destroyer.
As someone with a great amount of experience covering the pugilistic sport of boxing, Smith’s co-host Max Kellerman co-signed Smith’s statement to a degree but seemed to stop at the “potential” Ngannou’s win carries as opposed to proclaiming it the greatest thing in UFC history full stop.
“I agree with Stephen A,” Kellerman began. “This has a chance to be, what you did now, a turning point in the history of the UFC in the sense that light heavy was always the glamor division. Brock Lesnar looked for a second, like, ‘Can he be that guy at heavyweight?’ But he couldn’t consistently stay at that level. You now have a fight maybe lined up with Jon Jones.
“Because the UFC champion would beat the heavyweight champion in boxing in an actual fight, that guy’s the baddest man on the planet, especially if he’s a guy that fights like you. So this could be a turning point in the history of your sport. That’s a tremendous achievement.”
Ever the gracious giant, Ngannou took his praise in stride. During the interview, he noted the impact that Kamaru Usman had on his victory and discussed what it means to him to be a champion for his countrymen and his family. Ngannou’s story and UFC 260 achievement is certainly mainstream news now, and only time will tell if he will be able to carry the heavyweight torch to the places Smith and Kellerman believe he could.
What are your thoughts on Stephen A. Smith’s and Max Kellerman’s level of praise for new UFC champion Francis Ngannou?