Francis Ngannou has repeatedly been the recipient of much disrespect. More bluntly, he gets shit on by several parties. Dana White, odds makers, UFC fans — where has the respect been for the UFC Heavyweight champion of the world?
This disregard for likely the greatest Heavyweight talent to enter the UFC Octagon has a clear source: his pair of losses to Stipe Miocic and Derrick Lewis in 2018. Yes, Ngannou faltered in his 13th professional fight against the most statically dominant Heavyweight champ in UFC history, and yes, it affected his performance in the subsequent bout. Around the same time as these losses, the “Francis Ngannou is arrogant and difficult to deal with” narrative began, and it’s proven a sticky one.
Maybe Ngannou got a bit of a big head around that time; it certainly happens to professional athletes less special than “The Predator.” Since those losses, Ngannou’s public persona has been one of humility and hard work. He’s a clearly charitable man with a remarkable life story. If and when Endeavor pulls its head out of its collective ass and turns his tale into a film, it’s a surefire Oscar-bait tearjerker.
Still, the disrespect. It was so bad at the time that Ngannou had to knock out Curtis Blaydes at 4 A.M. in Beijing as the underdog to regain a bit of his previous standing. For the next two years, he had to beg for fights only to knock out opponents effortlessly. Finally, a title shot was undeniable, and he mangled Miocic to claim a new pedestal.
It was a hell of a journey, but still one that failed to really change the situation. Ngannou, having won five straight via knockout opposite the best in the world, still entered his first title defense as the underdog vs. an interim champion who never should have been crowned. That’s no dig at Ciryl Gane; it’s a shot at UFC’s underhanded and outright lame promotional tactics.
All the various bullshit narratives combined for a greatly cathartic win when Ngannou manhandled Gane in the final three rounds to retain his belt. Shooting on at least one torn knee, Ngannou turned to his wrestling when Gane proved too evasive, and he thus proved who was the greater natural talent of this era between the two clear-cut choices.
Dana White did not place the belt around his champion’s waist after the victory. Ngannou still has contract negotiations ahead of him, and his management team remains as odds with UFC. Not to mention, he likely faces a lengthy layoff as a result of his knee injury ... which probably means another interim title.
So long as that rift exists, Ngannou is likely to face disdain and rudeness in his pursuit of further money and opportunity. The war is not won. When the promotion he fights for does its best to undermine him, these narratives continue, and the public buys into it.
But, at least at UFC 270, Ngannou was triumphant, and it was glorious.
For complete UFC 270: “Ngannou vs. Gane” results and play-by-play, click HERE!