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Francis Ngannou says road to UFC 249 has been exhausting, frustrating

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After Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) had no other choice but to close up shop for several months, many fighters who already had fights booked were forced to go back into their private gyms to quarantine and keep training.

It was a frustrating ordeal all the way around, as the uncertainty of the times due to COVID-19 had people everywhere worried, anxious and stir crazy. For top-ranked Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight contender, Francis Ngannou, having his initial fight against Jairzinho Rozenstruick — which was set to go down on March 8, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio — postponed was the beginning of what was a rough emotional roller-coaster.

After the bout was re-booked to go down at UFC 249 on April 18 one month later, “The Predator’s” frustrations grew even further after the bout was once again put on the shelf. According to the hard-hitting big man, his motivation to keep going without knowing what was ahead declined as a result.

“It’s been very exhausting, very frustrating, [mentally],” Ngannou told MMA Fighting. “It’s been very hard to keep motivation and go out there every day. Go out there and train without knowing if the fight is going to happen. [You’re] always suspicious — maybe it’s going to happen or not, and to keep the same intensity for the fight.

“When you train for a fight it’s different than just training to stay in shape,” he continued. “So even when you don’t have that target, that goal, you still have to be motivated to go. That’s the hard part of it. Between every cancellation and the new schedule, there’s always a day where you’re kind of like the fight is postponed, so you drop everything, and in your mind, you don’t know what’s next. Then a few days after that, it gets rescheduled for that date, and you have put your sh*t together and go out there. Cause once again, that won’t be an excuse if you don’t perform out there.”

Judging by this pic, Ngannou didn’t have too much trouble finding motivation to get back into tip-top fighting shape once the fight was re-booked a third time for UFC 249 this weekend. Still, “The Predator” admits there is always that small bit of uncertainty and anxiousness lurking in the back of his mind that anything can happen at the eleventh hour.

“Right now, after three cancelations, it’s very tough to be confident about something,” Ngannou said. “You just hope, cross your fingers and hopefully that happens. But you don’t know exactly. The reality is that things are not what they were before. You just have to make it work somehow. I think we are all going through this. This is not especially for you. So all the fighters are dealing with this.

“Maybe someone has a better way of dealing with this, or they adjusted very fast, everyone has to go through this,” he added. “It’s awkward, it’s weird, it’s not the best conditions that you would like to be in, but at the end of the day, it’s still some sort of challenge that you can take, so you take it.”

The time off and multiple cancellations have not affected his confidence, however, as Ngannou says he still plans on putting “Bigi Boy” to sleep in hopes of earning his second chance at capturing UFC gold.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 249 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+/Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN+/ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 249: “Ferguson vs. Gaethje” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.