Francis N’Gannou (9-1), the UFC’s eighth ranked heavyweight, is undefeated in four UFC contests. Last time out - in December - he cranked Anthony Hamilton’s arm to the point of submission to earn the ninth stoppage win of his career. On January 28th he takes on former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski (26-13, 1 NC) at UFC on FOX 23, live on FOX.
Though he is 30 years old, N’Gannou is considered an elite prospect in the UFC’s heavyweight division. A win over Andrei Arlovski could catapult the Cameroonian fighter from prospect status to a bonafide championship contender. All this is in spite of N’Gannou’s sport and profession being effectively banned in the country he calls home, France.
In October, 2016 the French Ministry of Sport announced a decree to uphold a series of bans concerned with combat sports on French soil. Most damaging to mixed martial arts was the outlawing of ground strikes, which effectively made MMA an illegal sport. N’Gannou, who was born in the Central African nation of Cameroon but has lived in France since he was a toddler, was dismayed to learn of the French Sports Ministry’s decision. Asked how he felt now about the situation, the Paris-based fighter sighed, “It’s very political.”
A number of individuals and organizations involved in French MMA have previously stated that the French Judo Federation (FCF) are responsible for influencing French politicians into banning MMA. French lawyer and MMA practitioner Alexandre Allegret-Pilot told Bloody Elbow alleged that the FCF’s fear of competing with MMA and Brazilian jiu-jitsu was a motivating factor behind their ongoing assault on French MMA.
“We know that it is just political,” repeated N’Gannou. “But [the government] are refusing us the benefits of our work and that makes it so difficult for us to live.” N’Gannou said because of the ban, MMA fighters in France are unable to benefit from developing their skills at the regional level. He also stated that the ban cuts fighters off from mainstream exposure that could be used to secure high-paying sponsors.
Among N’Gannou and other French fighters’ frustrations is the simple fact they are unable to compete at home in their chosen sport. “We are dreaming, all of us are dreaming to have UFC Paris one day,” revealed N’Gannou.
L'arrêté Ministériel est-ce une manoeuvre désespérer ds anti-MMA qui sentent la fin de leur règne? bientôt la lumière sur le MMA Francais pic.twitter.com/yJiDDnyy6s— Francis NGannou (@francis_ngannou) October 28, 2016
Heading into the biggest fight of his career N’Gannou, thinks there is one thing he can do to possibly change the legal status of mixed martial arts in France. Asked if he thought him becoming the UFC heavyweight champion would soften the French government’s position on MMA, N’Gannou pondered carefully before saying, “Yes, it can do something.”
“Because everyone likes to have a hero,” continued N’Gannou. “And I think that [me becoming champion] can be something great and bring glory to the country and can connect that to something bigger.” Should N’Gannou get past Arlovski at UFC on FOX 23 it may not be too long before the Cameroonian-born Frenchman gets to put his theory to the test.