Heading into one of the biggest fights of his career at UFC 270 on Saturday against Ciryl Gane, UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou is putting all his cards on the table. Fighting for the title, he is also advocating for better fighter pay and a way to push others to be the best that they can be.
Ngannou recently went on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” and discussed several topics. The champion has been pushing for an increase in fighter pay for some time. He even said he wouldn’t fight for the standard rate the UFC pays. Noah asked Ngannou what he sees in his future, considering he is competing on the last fight of his UFC deal.
“Well, for the future, I expect to have a better contract, better contract structure,” Ngannou said. “Something that puts me in a safe position, you know? I’m doing a sport that is very risky and very tough. The sport is generating money. I’m not asking to share (it all), but I just need to have some respect to see that I’m worth it.
“We need to grow, we need to be safe, we need insurance, we need health insurance. You are doing a sport that you’re putting yourself on the line. You’re hurt, and you don’t even have guarantees. For those fighters who have the minimum salary, they can’t even afford to pay for their injuries, they can’t even afford physical therapy. They can’t even afford good health care. Nothing.”
Ngannou made his MMA debut in 2013 and joined the UFC in 2015. His story, from working at a stone quarry in his native Cameroon at age 9 to struggling to find food, all the way to where he is now, has made him an inspiration to people around the world. He chose boxing at around age 13. At 22, Ngannou wanted to chase his dream, traveling all over and getting arrested before making it to France and beginning his MMA journey.
The 35-year-old has won five in a row via some form of knockout. He beat Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 to win the UFC heavyweight title. Ngannou now faces Gane, a former teammate and sparring partner who won three fights in 2021. Gane is known to halt the momentum of his opponents right away, but Ngannou does not appear to be worried about him.
“A fight will never be easy when you are going to fight a man, you don’t know what will happen,” Ngannou went on to say. “There is not a fight that is going to be easy. He’s (Gane) a tough guy, he’s a very good, talented opponent and a very good contender for me. But, you know, the fact you said something about a perfect record, there is no perfect record. I have seen 10-0 before, he’s not my first 10-0. And of course, you know what happened to those 10-0?”
When he won the UFC heavyweight title, Ngannou took a break to work with various people from all over the world. He felt motivated to help others. It is the same motivation that has him thinking about another opportunity at boxing. A factor in all of this is Dwayne Johnson. Ngannou has looked up to The Rock since he was a little kid. Seeing the influence The Rock has, whether it be via social media or personal appearances, has helped shape Ngannou into wanting to do the same.
Thanks to The Rock and other factors from his life, Ngannou has a mission.
“When I wake up some days just to listen to The Rock’s voice messages, I’ll go out there that day and work double of what I was supposed to work,” Ngannou said. “I’m just motivated. I’m like, ‘Damn, The Rock just left me a message, this is it!’ The enthusiasm, the motivation of his messages, I realize how great it is to be in the position that you have, that power to maybe just talk to somebody and change their day or their life.
“I want to be the same thing for others. Knowing where I came from, that’s what we need. We just need hope. From my experiences, I believe that somebody that has hope and is self-believing is a successful person. It does not matter if you have zero dollars in your bank account. That faith will push you out there, and then it will make you a successful person.”
UFC 270 takes place inside the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. The co-main event will be Brandon Moreno defending the UFC flyweight title against Deiveson Figueiredo.
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