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Francis Ngannou hates losing, but he needed Stipe Miocic fight to prepare him for title

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Since joining the UFC roster, Francis Ngannou has become the most feared knockout striker in the world. But sometimes, it’s easy to forget he’s been a professional fighter for less than six years.

With a massive frame and ungodly power, “The Predator” quickly made a name for himself by laying waste to every heavyweight thrown in his path, racking up six straight wins, including five jaw-dropping knockouts.

His title run was capped with a demolition of Alistair Overeem; an uppercut turned the former Strikeforce champ and onetime UFC title challenger into a human Pez dispenser. For Ngannou, the candy reward was a shot at the heavyweight title held by Stipe Miocic.

Despite having fewer fights and far less championship experience, Ngannou was favored to win. But after 25 minutes, he was exhausted following a thorough thumping from the UFC heavyweight champion.

As much as he hated losing that night, Ngannou is able to look back now and realize how valuable that fight was to his growth as a mixed martial artist. Because truthfully, he said, he was lacking a lot of the weapons necessary to win that night.

“Nobody wants to lose, but I think at some point I needed a fight like that,” Ngannou said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “Sooner or later, I would have faced something like that. Because my rise was very fast, very quick, and I didn’t have time to understand a lot of things.”

Ngannou had been so dominant while stomping toward a title shot that he never realized the missing parts to his game would eventually have been exposed – one way or another.

It was a harsh lesson learned, but one that Ngannou absolutely had to absorb if he ever wanted to become a legitimate champion, ready to defend his title multiple times.

“What happened was even though at that point (where) I was ultimately a title contender, I still felt like I didn’t understand many things,” Ngannou said. “There were many things in the sport that I didn’t know.

“The fight against Stipe allowed me to understand many of those things. It allowed me to understand how you work and obviously, eventually when it happens again, it’s going to be different.”

Looking back now, Ngannou can acknowledge that if it wasn’t Miocic, it would’ve been somebody else that would’ve found the fatal flaws in his programming to shut him down.

It was that fight and a subsequent loss to Derrick Lewis that prompted Ngannou to refocus and recommit to becoming the best fighter he could be.

In his next trio of appearances, Ngannou spent less than three minutes total inside the Octagon while dispatching two former UFC heavyweight champions in Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos as well as fast rising challenger Curtis Blaydes.

As of now, Ngannou still awaits word on his next fight. But he’s already certain that when he finally gets another crack at UFC gold, the result will be much different.

“I think the biggest difference now is that I’ve increased my experience,” Ngannou said. “Now, I understand more about the fighting game.”