At the conclusion of the UFC 226 co-main event between Francis Ngannou and Derrick Lewis on Saturday night, longtime color commentator Joe Rogan proclaimed the bout the worst heavyweight fight he had ever seen.
UFC president Dana White didn’t go quite that far during the post-fight press conference in Las Vegas, but he did single out Ngannou, who lost the bout via unanimous decision, for withering criticism.
The 31-year old from France by way of Cameroon was on top of the world after his first-round knockout of Alistair Overeem at UFC 218 in December, being dubbed by some to be the Mike Tyson of MMA.
But Ngannou looked terrible in a five-round unanimous decision loss to then-UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic at UFC 220 in January, and then he looked gun-shy against Lewis at UFC 226, landing just 11 strikes over the course of 15 minutes.
According to White, who has been around long enough to know this when he sees it, the victory over Overeem, and the praise that came with it, went straight to Ngannou’s head.
“He had a pretty quick rise here, and obviously the fight over Alistair Overeem catapulted him, everybody was talking about him,” White said. “I thought he was going to be the next guy. I think his ego ran away with him big-time. I can tell you that his ego absolutely did run away with him. And the minute that happens to you in the fight game, you see what happens. You start to fall apart. I had some personal encounters with him, as did other people in the organization, and this guy’s ego just was so out of control.”
There were just seven weeks between the Overeem fight and the Miocic fight, but Ngannou, who bases his training in Las Vegas, took time to go to France in between.
“Before the Stipe fight, he took off and went to France,” White said. “Didn’t really even train for that fight. And you see the results. Well, then he comes back, and he did train, but I just — ego is what hurt Francis Ngannou.”
One thing White won’t do is blame Lewis for the fiasco of a fight. Lewis, who has a documented history of back trouble, pushed himself into the Octagon despite having those issues flare up. So White doesn’t go along with the conventional wisdom that the “Black Beast” had his stock drop because of the fight.
“He’s a fun guy, he’s funny, when he gets in there and throws, the fights are exciting,” White said. “But he always has problems with his back, and that is going to be a problem for him in there, you don’t want to go in there with a bad back with Cormier or any of these other heavyweights. But I like him and I don’t think his stock dropped at all.”