What Francis Ngannou’s UFC triumph means for Cameroonians | Cameroon News

 What Francis Ngannou's UFC triumph means for Cameroonians |  Cameroon News

Yaoundé, Cameroon – Christel Youbi wouldn’t miss it for anything. Like many others in Cameroon, she was determined to stay awake all night and watch compatriot Francis Ngannou take on US champion Stipe Miocic in Las Vegas for the UFC heavyweight title.
Saturday’s Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) bout was a rematch of an unbalanced Miocic decision victory three years ago. But this time things were different.

Ngannou, whose knockout power is seemingly unmatched (he had won the previous four fights in two minutes and 42 seconds combined), dominated the opening round.

And 52 seconds into the second, Miocic was flattened on the canvas – and Ngannou was on top of the world.

In Batie, where Ngannou grew up, dozens of people who packed a compound to watch the fight erupted in a height of euphoria as soon as the 34-year-old landed a fierce left hook to knock Miocic out.

There were similar scenes everywhere Cameroonians looked.

“Great joy,” said Youbi, who is originally from Batie but lives in the coastal town of Limbe, in Al Jazeera.

“He is a village brother and I am very happy that he maintains the image of our village and our country at such a high level.

Indeed, Ngannou’s victory means he is the first African-born UFC heavyweight champion – welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and middleweight champion Israel Adesanya left Nigeria as children.

‘Dedication and perseverance’

It was a long journey for the soft-spoken Ngannou who started working in a sand quarry at the age of 12 and then, in his mid-20s, embarked on a long and deadly journey from Cameroon. to France – a trip he described as “hell”.

Ngannou crossed the Sahara Desert and spent a year in Morocco before entering Spain via the Mediterranean Sea. Arrived in Spain, he was detained for having entered illegally and spent two months in detention before regaining his freedom and finally traveling to France.

In Paris, he was homeless until he found a fitness center to sleep in and start working out. In 2013, he made his professional debut and two years later he was signed by the UFC.

Ngannou kicks Miocic in his fight for the UFC Heavyweight Championship at UFC 260 event at UFC APEX in Las Vegas [Jeff Bottari/Handout Photo/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters]

“When the journey is longer, the reward is always more appreciated,” said Ngannou after his victory on Saturday.

“It’s just a symbol of dedication and perseverance,” he said of his championship belt. “Someone asked me what I wanted to do with the belt. Maybe I will find a public place to put it in Cameroon so that the kids can watch it and realize that anything is possible.

‘Proud of him’

Ngannou’s humble experience and charisma have won the hearts of many Cameroonians.

Renowned former footballers Roger Milla, a World Cup legend, and Rigobert Song Bahanak, known for his iconic leadership in the Africa Cup of Nations, were among the Cameroonian celebrities who congratulated Ngannou on social media.

Another big supporter of Ngannou at home is Mireille Ngono, the local administrator of Batie.

“I’m proud of him,” Ngono said. “Almost everyone knows him here: they saw him when he grew up, as a cyclist, sand shovel – [they] knew him in Batie when he had nothing, ”he added.

“When he comes here, he helps young people prepare for their future. He has his feet on the ground because he plays football with them and also helps the administration in community tasks.

For Njie Enow, head of sports for radio at CRTV’s state media, Ngannou’s triumph may help inspire children to take up combat sport in a country like football-mad Cameroon, where the basketball has also made its debut recently, thanks to the success of NBA stars such as Pascal Siakam, Joel Embiid and Luc Mbah a Moute.

“It’s a sport that doesn’t have a federation in the country. A lot of people don’t pay attention to it. But I hope that Cameroonian athletes and women can take advantage of the resilience that Francis Ngannou has shown, ”said Enow.

“This can be an opportunity for sports players in the country to look into this sport. In Cameroon, the focus is on football, basketball and volleyball. Combat sports are not getting the attention they deserve.

“This is an area where if state officials put the money in, the payoff will be really huge,” Enow said.


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