Brazilians and Americans have always alternated power at the top of the UFC categories. In recent years, however, other nationalities have taken their places and, on March 27, Francis Ngannou made history by becoming the first champion in Cameroon’s history, by dethroning Stipe Miocic and winning the title with a knockout. The heavyweight team joined Nigerian Israel Adesanya (middleweight) and Kamaru Usman (welterweight), leading Africa’s reign in the organization.
Francis Ngannou, Kamaru Usman and Israel Adesanya: UFC champion trio – Photo: Getty Images
In Cameroon, the most illustrious figures are still Roger Milla and Samuel Eto’o, stars who shone with the ball at their feet, played in the World Cup and elevated the colors of the African nation. Today, who gives visibility to the country is Francis Ngannou, whose popularity is expanding, according to the journalist Simon Pierre Etoundi, from the “Cameroon Tribune”, to “Esporte Espetacular”.
– Even here in Cameroon the most famous guys are still Samuel Eto’o and Roger Milla, but Francis Ngannou’s popularity is growing a lot. It is easier for a football player to be known. But everyone knows Francis Ngannou. Today he is a very well-known person here in Cameroon. Thousands of people spent the night waiting for his fight, so he’s the guy now. There was propaganda for this fight everywhere, everyone just talked about it. He became a very popular personality in Cameroon, people looked forward to seeing him as UFC champion.
Francis Ngannou proudly displays the Cameroon flag – Photo: Getty Images
Francis Ngannou has carried the Cameroon flag to the octagon since his start in the organization, in 2015. The athlete, who worked in the extraction of sand in the city of Batié, where he was born and maintains a foundation with his name to help needy children, has always shown pride in its roots. The fact that his start in MMA took place in France did not erode his relationship with the African country. Today, he lives in Las Vegas (USA), but his heart – and his family – are still in his village.
– The belt helps me deal with all this frustration that I have had my entire life. I promised myself that I would prove to everyone and other children that the life I had was not because I did something wrong but because I didn’t have the same chance as other people. I go back to Africa whenever I can, two to three times a year, and I stay there as long as I can. If things were easier there, I think I would go back to live in Africa and live in my country with my family – commented the heavyweight, owner of 16 wins and three losses in MMA.
Francis Ngannou has lunch with his mother in the city of Batié, in Cameroon – Photo: reproduction / Instagram
The trio’s most recent African champion, Francis Ngannou dreams of an unprecedented edition of the UFC on the continent as a way to value the belt owners, after the end of the new coronavirus pandemic.
– It is more than proven that the UFC has to go to Africa. There are three champions and we don’t even have 25 African fighters in the UFC. There is no way for the UFC not to hold an event there. There are not many Africans in the UFC today, there are probably about 20 athletes in total out of 550 fighters. And Africa has three champions, which means a lot. Africa is a cradle of talent, a land of fighters – says the heavyweight, who had Usman in his corner, and the Israeli fans Adesanya, on television.
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