Ngannou has sat on the heavyweight throne since March 2021. Then, “The Predator” exacted revenge on divisional great Stipe Miocic. Having had his first shot at gold dismissed by the Ohio native in 2018, Ngannou didn’t let it go to the scorecards at UFC 260, knocking Miocic out in round two.
With the win, the 36-year-old behemoth culminated a run of form that included knockout after knockout with title glory. And in his most recent outing, the Cameroonian further legitimized his rule by adding a successful defense over then-interim champ Ciryl Gane to his résumé.
While many champions have a tough road to the top, not many have a story that can surpass Ngannou’s when it comes to inspiration. Unfortunately, the fact that it serves as such for those in the position he formerly lived in has resulted in the loss of life.
Ngannou Reveals Impact Of His Journey Back Home
Over a decade ago, Ngannou looked to leave poverty and grueling work in a sand mine, where he earned around $2 a day, behind. With that, he began a treacherous journey across Africa, culminating in a life-threatening row into international waters between Morocco and Spain.
After having a rescue cry to the Red Cross answered, Ngannou was taken to Spain, where he was kept in prison for two months. Having been released, “The Predator” headed to France, eventually finding refuge at the MMA Factory gym in Paris.
Having endured the treacherous 14-month trip to Europe, which has taken the lives of many, and made his combat sports dream a reality, Ngannou now serves as an inspiration to Cameroonian youth who are in the same situation that he was once in.
But that notoriety has left Ngannou with an element of guilt.
During a recent appearance on In The Moment with David Greene, the UFC titleholder described the influence that his success has had in his home village, with many children attempting to follow suit — something that has had harrowing and tragic consequences.
“Unfortunately, I think I have influenced some kid from my country. I know from my village, I know a kid that has died (trying to follow my path),” Ngannou said. “They died in Morocco. There’s two or three kids. I know, for sure, it’s just because I made it. They want to make it as well. Somehow, yeah, (I feel responsible), even though I haven’t teamed up with the organization.
“Everyone will come (to me) like, ‘How did you get it? How did you get there? What is the route?’ Don’t ask me, because the dilemma in this situation is you tell some kid, ‘Okay, this is the route,’ if he dies, it’s your fault,” Ngannou added.
After winning UFC gold last year, Ngannou returned home to Batié, a town and commune in the Hauts Plateaux Division in western Cameroon, receiving a hero’s welcome.
“The Predator” has also created the Francis Ngannou Foundation, whose mission is to “provide the children of Cameroon with the skills to expand their horizons and realize their dreams.”
The website explains how the foundation is “honored” to have built the first fully equipped gym in the African nation, with the facility opening back in 2019. With that, the heavyweight king is looking to provide the facilities for others to reach his success back home, and without having to go to the lengths that he did.
This story originally appeared on MMANews.com. Please provide transcription credit with a link to this article if you use any of these quotes.