Francis N’Gannou (9-1) remained undefeated in the UFC after collecting his eighth stoppage victory in a row; versus Anthony Hamilton at UFC Fight Night 102 in December, 2016. That win — his fourth in the UFC — came via submission (kimura) in the first round.
Fresh off of his victory N’Gannou was asked by the UFC who we would prefer to fight next, and when he’d like to do so. The 6’4” Cameroonian fighter, who is based in Paris, told the promotion that he would like to fight on the UFC’s London show in March. As for an opponent, N’Gannou had a couple of big names in mind. “I said I want Andrei Arlovski, I want Travis Browne, or someone like Mark Hunt,” N’Gannou told Bloody Elbow.
When the UFC got back in touch with N’Gannou’s manager, they informed him that Arlovski (25-13 1NC) was available, but they wanted to book the fight for January, in Denver, Co. “I wanted to go to Cameroon to celebrate Christmas and New Year,” revealed N’Gannou, “But when the UFC gave me this opportunity, I had to take it.”
N’Gannou said it has been “many years” since he had been back to his home country and that he has has a number of family members he has not seen for a very long time. The decision to forgo visiting them over the festive period was made quickly, but not without emotion.
N’Gannou was born in Batié, a small town in the western highlands of Cameroon. The area is known for sand production, an industry that feeds many of his friends and family. He left Central Africa, with immediate family, when he was a toddler and emigrated to France. Despite making a home in Paris, N’Gannou still feels connected with Cameroon, and especially the growing fan base he has there.
“They’re watching my fights,” proudly claimed N’Gannou, “In Cameroon the people see me like a hero. Their own guy, representing in the world. And they like talking to me on Facebook. I get a lot of messages. I can’t even answer all the messages, there are so many.”
N’Gannou’s African fans will no doubt be glued to UFC on FOX 23 on January 28th. That night he will take on the greatest challenge of his MMA career: seventh ranked heavyweight, and former champion, Andrei Arlovski. The Belorussian was N’Gannou’s first pick for an opponent and the reasoning was simple.
“I need to go to the best to get my title shot,” said N’Gannou. “I know that to have a title shot you are supposed to fight a great one. I want for people to see I am a great fighter and I think to be a great fighter you are supposed to fight a great one. You’re supposed to fight one who people know, that has a good reputation or is a very tough fighter and that is why I say now, after my fight with Hamilton, I feel now I need top ten because I need to be recognized as a great fighter.”
Along with his position in the rankings, Arlovski’s skill-set also appeals to the ambitious N’Gannou. “He has good size, good stand-up. That is why I need him,” said N’Gannou who stated that his four previous opponents in the UFC didn’t have good enough striking to seriously challenge him. Though he respects Arlovski’s stand-up, N’Gannou believes he has the striking edge in this match-up. N’Gannou also thinks he has an advantage over Arlovski when it comes to wrestling, despite only training in that discipline for three years. Ultimately though, N’Gannou believes his biggest advantage over the veteran Arlovski is something he has acquired outside of the gym.
“My advantage is in my mind,” claimed N’Gannou. “I know that a lot of people have experience because they are fighters that have fought in the UFC or for other organizations for many years. I don’t have that experience, but I have life experience and I think that’s what will make me triumph. That makes me tough. That makes me something different than Arlovski.
“The challenges in my life started since I was born,” continued N’Gannou. “It has never been easy. Nothing in my life has been easy.” Thought he doesn’t think getting a win over ‘The Pit Bull’ will be easy either, N’Gannou is very confident he will see his hand raised in Denver. “I’m going to show people, I’m going to show fans, that I’m better than him.”
You can see if Francis N’Gannou’s prediction comes true when he takes on Andrei Arlovski at UFC on FOX 23, live on FOX on January 28th.