Dana White wasted no time putting former UFC heavyweight title contender Francis Ngannou on blast for his historically bad performance against Derrick Lewis at UFC 226. Whether or not he got the reasoning right is another matter altogether.
“I thought he was going to be the next guy,” White said of the ‘Predator’ after Ngannou’s fight with Lewis, where he landed only 11 strikes – of 46 thrown – over three rounds. “I think his ego ran away with him, big time. I can tell you that his ego absolutely did run away with him. The minute that happens to you in the fight game, you see what happens. You start to fall apart.”
But, Ngannou’s poor showing didn’t seem to show any hallmarks of hubris. The top-ranked 265er didn’t appear to be clowning in the cage. Instead, he just seemed stuck. A man frozen in the moment of competition, unable to pull the trigger.
In a statement released on social media, the French-Cameroonian training out of Team Syndicate gave his account of what happened. And according to him it was pure anxiety, resulting from his UFC 220 thrashing at the hands of Stipe Miocic back in January.
I'll overcome all this. pic.twitter.com/TqWFEDWQcb— Francis NGannou (@francis_ngannou) July 9, 2018
That makes a lot more sense than ego.
Ngannou got a chance to fight for the heavyweight title just over four years into his pro MMA career. Practically light speed for a fighter in the UFC. Especially in the 265 lb division, where careers often last well over a decade. If anything, it seems that he was rushed well ahead of his technical skill, riding on the back of his impressive knockout ability.
What fans got on Saturday, July 6th wasn’t an abundance of ego, but a fighter coming to grips with having his own sense of invulnerability stripped away. Hopefully he can bounce back and return to form down the line. And in the mean time, his coaches will probably want to work on rebuilding his sense of self, rather than tearing it down.