Reigning UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou made it very clear, long before he was booked to throw hands against Ciryl Gane in the UFC 270 pay-per-view (PPV) headliner this Sat. night (Jan. 22, 2022) in Anaheim, Calif., that he was not going to bend over backwards for UFC if the favor was not returned on payday.
I believe his exact words were “fuck no.”
Ngannou, 35, has one fight remaining on his current UFC contract, but a championship clause binds “The Predator” — on a fight-by-fight basis — if he wins this weekend in Anaheim. A loss, however, will send Ngannou on his merry way. That’s not really the kind of cloud any fighter wants to have hanging over them in preparation for a monumental showdown, like the one that awaits him in the UFC 270 headliner.
Much has been made about the psychological effects of the “big spot,” and it’s not a phenomenon relegated to combat sports. That’s why a pitcher who is six innings into an MLB no-hitter will sit alone on the bench, as teammates cautiously avoid his safe space. Even Ngannou has seen a therapist to help manage his MMA career, a decision that — based on these comments — did not bode well for ex-coach, Fernand Lopez.
And the presence of Lopez adds another layer of drama to the UFC 270 main event.
Ngannou previously trained with Gane at MMA Factory in Paris, but parted ways with Lopez after losing a lopsided decision to Stipe Miocic at UFC 220. “Bon Gamin” stayed behind and rose through the heavyweight ranks uncontested, while the new-look Ngannou avenged his loss to Miocic at UFC 260 under the tutelage of Xtreme Couture coach Eric Nicksick. That hasn’t stopped the past from tainting the present, perhaps more so for Ngannou.
“I gotta be honest man, I’ve heard whispers that all the things that Francis is dealing with, outside of the actual fight, may be taking its toll a little bit mentally,” former UFC heavyweight champion-turned-local snitch Daniel Cormier said on his ESPN show. “I’m not sure, but we will see. I know that Francis Ngannou is a man. He’s going to fight in any circumstance, he’s got the ultimate equalizer, but he’s got to be locked in if he is going to keep his championship on Saturday night.”
Even UFC President Dana White wants Ngannou to settle down.
There’s no doubt “The Predator” feels a tremendous amount of pressure heading into UFC 270. But are the demons of self-doubt more prevalent now than they were ahead of his Miocic rematch? Is the background noise of his Lopez drama any louder than White’s “ego” complaints in front of this legendary stinker? Gane is dangerous, no doubt, but so was Miocic, and Ngannou passed that test with flying colors.
That doesn’t mean the Cameroonian slugger will or will not prevail. I just don’t think that Ngannou is dealing with anymore pressure or distractions than he has in the past. And let’s face it, his life prior to sports excellence was not an easy one, so I can’t imagine he’s feeling anything new in terms of anxiety. How that translates to his performance inside the Octagon remains to be seen.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 270 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ early “Prelims” bouts scheduled for 6 p.m. ET, followed by 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+.
For the rest of the UFC 270 fight card and PPV lineup click here.