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Francis Ngannou no longer consumed by UFC title, still dreams of boxing crossover

Francis Ngannnou
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Francis Ngannou should probably be challenging for the heavyweight title right now instead of facing a hungry new prospect like Jairzinho Rozenstruik on May 9.

Despite three straight knockouts including two over former champions, Ngannou is currently stuck waiting for the conclusion of an anticipated trilogy between heavyweight king Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier. Because Miocic is still dealing with an eye injury suffered in his rematch with Cormier, and because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there’s no telling when he’ll return to defend his belt.

That leaves Ngannou with no guarantees a win over Rozenstruik on May 9 will bring a title shot. It wasn’t long ago that the situation would have absolutely infuriated Ngannou, but his perspective on the future has changed a lot in recent months.

“I’m in the same position as you – I still don’t know what’s going on,” Ngannou told MMA Fighting when asked about the current landscape at heavyweight in the UFC. “How do I handle that? How do I make it easy for me? I don’t think about it anymore.”

Ngannou had to forgo the anger and frustration that used to eat at him as obstacles slowed his pace. Now, he knows laying waste to the best and brightest in the heavyweight division will eventually lead him to the title. But it might not be his next fight, or even the one after that.

Rather than wasting too much time thinking about what he doesn’t have, Ngannou prefers to focus on what’s right in front of him, because that’s the only thing in his control.

“As I said before, which is exactly my mindset for right now, what’s going to happen is going to happen and will happen in the right time,” he said. “It’s not my call. It’s not on my hand. I just have to make sure I do what I have to do and do it well. I believe that at some point if it’s meant to happen, it will happen.

“To answer your question, I let it go. I’m not carrying it anymore. I was thinking about it and I was carrying that and it was very heavy. It was very frustrating to think about it. I felt like it wasn’t some feeling that I had to have. I didn’t have to put myself in there. At the end of the day, for me this was just fun.”

Considering Ngannou has been actively competing in MMA for less than seven years, he’s still a novice by many measures. Yet he’s already considered one of the top heavyweights in the sport.

Ngannou started to realize how much time is still left in his career. For now, he’s just getting back to the pure enjoyment he feels whenever he’s fighting.

“I didn’t know MMA growing up, and I stepped into MMA just having fun,” Ngannou said. “It was fun and entertaining, and that’s how I get into MMA. So for me, it was just about fun.

“As long as it’s not fun anymore, as long as it becomes very serious for me and getting me frustrated, I think I’m losing my passion.”

While he still dreams of being a UFC champion, Ngannou has also started to think about other passions that have been reignited in recent months. Prior to his MMA career taking off, he thought boxing would be his future in combat sports, and he’s never forgotten about his first love.

“I don’t worry about [the heavyweight title] anymore,” Ngannou said. “I’m thinking about in what was my first dream, which was boxing. Lately, I’ve been thinking about it pretty much, and I think it’s what I’m going to end up doing. It’s an unachieved dream that I’ve always had. I had that dream growing up.

“Boxing is the only sport that I knew. It’s the only sport that I ever been interested in about it before I even discovered MMA less than seven years ago. My life was all about boxing. My dreams was all about boxing. Then MMA kind of dragged me away from boxing, and if MMA can’t give me fun at some point, then why should I be stubborn and stuck in it? I just have to have fun, do what I want before I wake up someday and feel like it’s too late.”

Ngannou isn’t going to abandon his UFC career to go to boxing. But he definitely plans on crossing over sports before the end of his road.

“At the end of the day, nothing is worse than a regret,” Ngannou said. “When you think about something, you don’t think about what you accepted. You think about what you didn’t do. Then you better do it rather than just try.”

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