Earlier this month, it appeared as if UFC heavyweight Francis Ngannou made a small mistake in a public back-and-forth with Alistair Overeem.
Overeem had accused Ngannou of trying to cut his way in line to a UFC title shot on Twitter. Ngannou responded, "Keep talking s--- and I will snap your with my punch."
The incomplete threat looked a little awkward online, but Ngannou, who is hoping to challenge UFC champion Stipe Miocic by the end of the year, says he was purposefully vague.
"Let him imagine what I'm going to snap," Ngannou told ESPN. "I want him to think about it."
The statement actually says a lot about how Ngannou (10-1) sees himself ahead of a significant step up in competition. He benefits from the unknown.
The African heavyweight is 5-0 in the UFC but still relatively young in his career. He's been fighting professionally for less than four years, and more than half of his contests have ended inside the first round.
"I already know everything they're able to do," Ngannou said of potential opponents Miocic and Overeem. "Everyone knows all of their skills. They don't know mine. They're still discovering mine. I'm bringing a surprise in every fight. I've never had the opportunity to show my whole game yet.
"I knock Stipe out when we fight. I think under three rounds, I knock him out."
The timing of Ngannou's title shot may hinge on contract negotiations between Miocic and the UFC. The defending champion is looking to restructure his deal but has pegged December or January for a potential title defense.
Ngannou, who moved to Las Vegas from Paris this year, was supposed to face former champion Junior dos Santos earlier this month at UFC 215. The fight was canceled when dos Santos was flagged for a potential anti-doping violation.
That means Ngannou, 31, hasn't fought since January -- a bout that lasted just 92 seconds. His preference is to face Miocic next, but if that's unavailable, he wants Overeem in December.
"It's not clear right now," Ngannou said. "I want Stipe, but they are also talking about Overeem. I'll probably fight either [UFC 218] on Dec. 2 in Detroit or [UFC 219] on Dec. 30 in Las Vegas.
"I'd prefer to fight in Detroit just because it's 28 days sooner," he said. "I had a fight this month and it didn't happen, so I'm just waiting. It sucks."
Originally from Cameroon, Ngannou says the greatest improvements he's made since relocating to the UFC's Performance Institute in Las Vegas have been to his cardio. He intends to keep the same cornermen and coaches he started with in Paris, even though his preparations now take place in the U.S.