Heading into one of the biggest fights of his career at UFC 270 on Saturday against Ciryl Gane, UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou is laying all his cards on the table. Fighting for the title, he also advocates for better pay for fighters and a way to push others to be the best they can be.
Ngannou recently continued “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” and we discussed various topics. The champion has been pushing for an increase in fighters’ pay for some time. He even said that he would not fight for the standard fee that the UFC pays. Noah asked Ngannou what he sees in his future, considering he’s competing in the last fight of his UFC contract.
“Well, for the future, I hope to have a better contract, a better contract structure,” Ngannou said. “Something that puts me in a safe position, you know? I am doing a sport that is very risky and very hard. Sport is making money. I’m not asking to share (everything), but I just need to have a little respect to see that I’m worth it.
“We need to grow, we need to be safe, we need insurance, we need health insurance. You’re doing a sport where you’re taking risks. You’re hurt and you don’t even have guarantees.” For those fighters who are on minimum wage, they can’t even pay for their injuries, they can’t even pay for physical therapy, they can’t even afford good medical care, nothing.”
Ngannou made his MMA debut in 2013 and joined the UFC in 2015. His story, from working in a stone quarry in his native Cameroon at age 9 to struggling to find food, to where he is now, has made him a inspiration. to people from all over the world. He chose boxing around the age of 13. At 22, Ngannou wanted to pursue his dream, traveling far and wide and getting arrested before he reached France and began his MMA journey.
The 35-year-old has won five in a row via some form of knockout. He defeated Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 to win the UFC heavyweight title. Ngannou now faces Gane, a former tag team partner and training partner who won three fights in 2021. Gane has been known to stop his opponents’ momentum right away, but Ngannou doesn’t seem to be worried about him.
“A fight will never be easy when you go to fight a man, you don’t know what will happen,” Ngannou continued. “There is no fight that is going to be easy. He is (Gane) a tough guy, he is a very good and talented opponent and a very good contender for me. But, you know, the fact that you said something about a perfect record, there is no such thing as a perfect record. I’ve seen 10-0 before, it’s not my first 10-0. And of course, do you know what happened to those 10-0?
When he won the UFC heavyweight title, Ngannou took a break to work with various people around the world. He was motivated to help others. It is the same motivation that has him thinking of another opportunity in boxing. One factor in all of this is Dwayne Johnson. Ngannou has admired The Rock since he was a little boy. Seeing the influence The Rock has, whether through social media or personal appearances, helped make Ngannou want to do the same.
Thanks to The Rock and other factors in his life, Ngannou has a mission.
“When I wake up some days just to hear The Rock’s voicemails, I’ll go out that day and work twice as hard as I’m supposed to,” Ngannou said. “I’m just motivated. I’m like, ‘Damn, The Rock just left me a message, this is it!’ The enthusiasm, the motivation of your messages, I realize how good it is to be in the position you have, that power of maybe talking to someone and changing their day or their life.
“I want to be the same for others. Knowing where I come from, that’s what we need. We just need hope. From my experience, I think someone who has hope and believes in himself is a successful person. It doesn’t matter if you have zero dollars in your bank account, that faith will propel you forward and make you a successful person.”
UFC 270 takes place inside the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. The co-main event will see Brandon Moreno defending the UFC flyweight title against Deiveson Figueiredo.