MMA fighter Francis Ngannou chats to KweséESPN about his rise up the UFC heavyweight rankings, his ambitions, and which member of his family back home in Cameroon refuses to watch his fights.
What led to your decision to move permanently from Paris [to where he moved in his mid-20s] to Las Vegas in May?
Everything is easier than in Paris for me, a heavyweight. In France we don't have more heavyweights. I needed to improve my English; in France it was more difficult than here and here I have a good training camp. I have a new performance institute. It's something that is very good for me too.
Were you able to bring your old coaches with you to Vegas or do you have new coaches now?
I would like to [have brought them] but you know everyone has their own life. They're still there with their family, their business, but I needed to go so I moved by myself. We still work together.
Are you now settled in Vegas? Is it home now?
Yes, everything is okay because when I moved here I made people help me a lot. UFC and friends. People helped me to set up and now it's good.
Do you still have family in Cameroon and do they watch your fights?
Mothers, brothers, sisters ... all of them are in Cameroon. Some of them watch and some don't watch. My mom doesn't watch until I win the fight, but when I win the fight she can watch the video after.
Have you considered holding MMA camps in Cameroon to grow the sport there?
In the future; it's not set up yet but we are working on it. Right now we are putting in some equipment for some gyms. We're going to start with a little gym before growing bigger.
Do you believe that there are other potential MMA fighters in Cameroon just waiting to be discovered and provided with the right training?
Yes, there are more talents [there] but the thing that I think about most is people. Someone who has a good motivation like me, who needs that 'thing'. Who wants, desires, that thing like I was before. I think if we have two or three people who have the same thing that I had before, it will be a good thing to do that for them. To give someone that chance that no-one gave me. I can give it back to someone.
Are you a follower of the Indomitable Lions and their achievements on the soccer pitch?
I don't really watch but I try to get any information because I have some friends in the team like Adolphe Teikeu. He's from my village too so we talk on the phone. He gives me the news [like] when they won the Africa Cup of Nations.
Were there any UFC fighters that you enjoyed watching or learning from when you started out in MMA?
Every fighter has something to bring to you. Even now I watch the fights, I watch the flyweights, the middleweights, and I still learn something. You understand better and you try to set up something with the base of what you saw. I learn about everyone. All fighters in the UFC are professional, everyone has something to bring to you.
With your initially scheduled fight versus Brazilian Junior Dos Santos cancelled because of a doping violation, who would you like to fight next?
Honestly the fighter that I want is Stipe [Miocic]. We'll see what will happen. If the UFC doesn't give me Stipe and maybe want me to fight [Alistair] Overeem I will do, it but I want Stipe.
What do you think of Stipe as a fighter?
Stipe is a good fighter. He proved himself by his wins and becoming the champ and defending the title, but I believe I am best.
As you mentioned earlier, there's talk of you possibly fighting Overeem next; what are your impressions of Overeem in the Octagon?
Overeem too is a good fighter. Since two years ago, Overeem definitely changed his style and then he started to make very smart fights. Moving away, change [tactics more] than before. So Overeem is a good fighter, a good match-up. A lot of experience and he too keeps winning fights so a good thing for me too.
What are your long-term goals in the sport of MMA?
Of course I want longevity, I want to hold that belt. It's not just about the belt but to hold the belt is something. That will be my next goal.