Cameroonian heavyweight Alain Ngalani will enter the biggest fight of his MMA career when he faces Vitor Belfort in the ONE Championship cage, but wouldn’t shy away from trading hands and kicks with a compatriot.
Ngalani made the transition from kickboxing to MMA in 2013 after signing with the Asian promotion, racking up a 4-5 record with one no-contest in the sport. He would still be too distant from Francis Ngannou, the odd man out in the UFC’s heavyweight title picture, even in an unlikely scenario where both companies co-promoted.
“The Panther”, however, would be down for a challenge even with all the great things he has to say about a Cameroonian “brother.”
“He’s my brother, he’s a good fighter, he’s very aggressive, and he goes in there and does his thing,” Ngalani told MMA Fighting. “And it’s been working for him, go in there and just brawl and just swing heavy punches and knocking out guys. I love him for that. He’s doing an awesome job. Fantastic athlete, natural and fantastic.”
Ngalani believes his success shows that in all Africa, specifically in Cameroon, “we have talent” to compete against the very best in the world. Could Ngannou avenge a loss and dethrone Stipe Miocic, or maybe stop former champion Daniel Cormier for an interim title? Ngalani has no doubts.
“There is no denying that Francis Ngannou will get that title shot and get that belt, one way or another,” Ngalani said. “He’s still young, he still has time, he’s doing his thing and it’s working for him. I’m very proud of him and I know he’s gonna get it’s just a matter of time. It’s challenging, but a fight is a fight and anything can happen.”
“It would be huge for Cameroon, for Africa in general,” Ngalani said. “For him to win the title, it would be huge. It would be unprecedented in MMA in Cameroon, a heavyweight UFC fighter from Africa, it would be unprecedented. We already have a few African athletes with the belt, like Adesanya and (Usman), but they are not heavyweights. At heavyweight, he would be the first, and that would be awesome.”
Ngalani admits he often receives messages from fans asking if he could fight Ngannou one day because of their Cameroon roots.
“For now, he’s my brother,” he responds. “I don’t think so, but, you know, people like to speculate, so let them speculate. He’s my brother and he’s doing his thing. If we ever have to step in a cage I’m an athlete, I’m a fighter, I’ll step in a cage with a lion if I have to. Doesn’t matter, you know? That’s what we do. We’ve been doing this for years.”
When asked how he would fare against one of the most dangerous fighters in today’s MMA, “The Panther” refereed for one of the biggest upsets in kickboxing history as an example.
“You know, it reminds a bit of the fight I had with Bob Sapp,” Ngalani said of the kickboxing match he won in 2009. “When I fought Bob Sapp, Bob Sapp was on top of his game, he knocked out Ernesto Hoost. Bob Sapp was twice my size. I was 100kg (220 pounds) and he was 175kg (386 pounds) when I fought him. He was almost too meters (6’5”), he was a big guy. Everyone was like, ‘If he touches you, you’re out. If he touches you, you’re out.’ To fight Bob Sapp I had to be very smart. Very fast, very efficient and very technical, and I won. So anything is possible, you have to work your your strategy.
“You don’t go against… I saw the Bob Sapp-Ernesto Hoost fight, Ernesto Hoost was my all-time favorite, he was the multiple-time world champion and the champ at the time. No one gave (Sapp) a chance against Ernesto Hoost, but Bob Sapp knocked out Ernesto Hoost out not once, but twice. So, you know, it was unbelievable when that happened. But you don’t go against someone who’s like a brawler and try to brawl with him. You have to adapt and then change your game. It’s the smart thing to do. Be smart and adapt, and change strategy.”