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Francis Ngannou hopes UFC 220 title fight inspires fellow Africans to believe dreams can come true

Esther Lin/MMA Fighting

Born in Batie, Cameroon, Africa, Francis Ngannou didn’t live a glamorous life growing up.

Working in sand mines from the early age of 12 to help take care of his mother and sibling, in this detailed piece, Ngannou recalls the bullying he experienced from members of his extended family at times, who he and his family had to stay with after his parents separated at the age of six.

When he was 22 years of age, Francis made the move to France in his quest to become a world boxing champion, living on the streets while finding different places to train. After settling in, Francis made a name for himself on the regional MMA circuit, winning five of his first six fights before getting the call up to the big show.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Now, with the biggest fight of his career on the horizon against Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic at UFC 220 on Jan. 20 in Boston, Massachusetts, Ngannou says facing Stipe closes a huge chapter in his life.

“This is going to close the chapter of my childhood and teenage years,” he explained to Bloody Elbow. “All that time I have been frustrated with my whole life, with a feeling that I was always the last one who never had a chance. So I want to close that. I want to leave that behind me.”

While one chapter will close with a win, another one will begin for “The Predator,” as being champion will open a bevy of doors. But, in his eyes the journey has been not only his, as a win for him will give others from his country who are struggling just like he did at several points in his life the motivation to make their dreams a reality.

“This journey now is not only mine,” said Ngannou. “It’s for all Cameroonians and for the whole of Africa and all of France, too. In Africa, when I started the journey, I was by myself. No one believed me at that time, and today all of them believe in me and they almost rely on me. It’s very important, because I can bring hope to someone or help someone to be ambitious and tell them that everything is possible,” he added.

“See where I’m from and see where I am today,” continued Ngannou. “This inspires a lot of people and gets a lot of people excited, so that they want to do something by themselves. In Africa, in many parts of the continent, people do not allow themselves to dream, because what they dream of; it’s unreal, but I’m just trying to show that everything is possible. That dream, you can allow yourself. You have a right. It doesn’t matter what was the beginning or how you began. What’s more important is where you arrive. As long as you prepare for your arrival and you have the right mind set, you can do it.”

Indeed, Ngannou’s story is that of hard work and determination which could have a great new chapter once the dust settles in “Beantown.” But, it won’t be easy, as he is facing a champion in Stipe who is on the cusp of making history and, like Francis, has left a path of destruction behind him on the 265-pound weight class on his way to the top.

To see who else is fighting at UFC 220: “Miocic vs Ngannou” click here.

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