Your career is usually defined by a few great moments. Moments you can look back on and be proud of. Whether it was a promotion, landing a big client, or anything that allowed you to reach the next step up. For Francis Ngannou, that moment came on December 2nd, 2017, as he took on Alistair Overeem as the co-main event of UFC 218.
Ngannou wasn’t wearing your typical suit and tie when his big moment came. He wasn’t sitting in a conference room blowing away potential clients with an offer they couldn’t refuse. Instead, he was wearing size 3XL UFC gloves and a pair of Reebok shorts. His conference room? None other than the UFC’s world-famous Octagon.
Ngannou’s sales pitch lasted exactly one minute and forty-two seconds, just long enough to knock Overeem out cold with one of the most violent uppercuts ever seen in the Octagon. The fans went crazy as Overeem’s body soared through the air and stiffened up the moment it hit the floor.
“I just saw that people go crazy and I was really happy about that,” Ngannou told MMA Latest. “And that was something that I promised him because he did talk a little bit of shit everywhere about me and I promised him ‘I’m going to knock you out’ and he said he was going to knock me out in the second round or something like that. I really was wondering how he was going to pass the first round before getting to the second round. I mean yes it was very… when I saw the picture it was very violent.”
The opportunity was seized as Ngannou became the clear-cut number-one contender. Looking to capitalize on the fans reactions, the UFC quickly booked Ngannou for a January 20th title fight opposite “the Baddest Man on the Planet” Stipe Miocic.
“Because there was an opportunity for UFC Boston,” Ngannou begins to explain why he wanted such a quick turnaround. “Stipe always said that he would not fight until earlier and I was looking for the opportunity. The UFC came to me and asked me how I felt for Boston. I was just like ‘let’s go’ it’s just seven weeks away, I’m injury free so so there was the possibility for me to just maintain my shape, just keep my shape and I will be ready. He was going to take four months off, take one month off, come back and start training camp for three months it’s better to take seven weeks and keep your shape.”
Miocic’s reign as Heavyweight Champion has gone on for almost two years. The current Champion has ended all three of his title fights with a first-round knockout. It’s going to take more than that to impress a man on a ten fight winning streak with all wins coming by stoppage.
“It’s very simple he’s the champ, so he’s not the champ for nothing, he’s the champ for something,” Ngannou explains. “He’s been walking through people taking over the division before becoming the champ, became the champ, and with two title defenses. So it’s a good one a very good one (the matchup) but I see myself as a great one, the greatest in this division. I see myself as something very special because when I look at all the division there is no one who is in front of me. I feel like I can take anyone in the division, I mean, I’ve never been impressed by Stipe, he’s a good heavyweight but I think his current time is over.”
Before fighting Overeem, Ngannou had another opportunity to punch his ticket to a title shot. He was supposed to face Junior dos Santos back in July before the Brazilian was forced off of the card to a USADA violation.
“I was upset because that was the bridge to cross on it to get to the belt, to Stipe,” Ngannou said. “So now I’ve got Stipe, I don’t give a shit about Junior dos Santos, whatever, if I have to fight Junior dos Santos in the future I will fight him but I’m not impressed by Junior dos Santos for me it’s just some easy fight”
Behind all of Ngannou’s current success comes a humble beginning. The story’s been told many times, the story of survival, the feeling of being stuck, the lack of hope.
“As long as I can be an inspiration for someone and bringing hope to someone is important, ” Ngannou explains. “Because I know how it can be- how it can be difficult when we don’t have a mother, an inspiration, an example. So when I go to Cameroon and there is someone or some kid who wants to train in boxing it’s possible, but in my time they didn’t think it was possible, they just think that it was crazy. So with what I’m doing, it changed things, changed people’s minds. So it’s important to give that hope to someone.”
It would be easy for someone in Ngannou’s position to simply forget where he came from and focus solely on himself. But that’s not the man Ngannou prides himself to be. The Cameroon native remains humble through all the praise. Most importantly he still plans to go to Cameroon and build a gym for the kids.
“Of course after this fight, I’ll go to Cameroon, try to figure that out and then see how in how many months it will take to do it and to finish it.”
Among the comments Ngannou hears from fans, his physique always seems to follow him wherever he goes. The six foot five heavyweight always seems to get called a giant, a monster, etc.
“They always used to call me different,” Ngannou said. “Before I start to fight they would always give me nicknames because I was oversize everywhere I went, I was oversized so they would give me nicknames. So I’m used to it.”
Although there’s great reason to be scared of such a “monster,” Ngannou believes his opponents aren’t scared of him, they are however very cautious.
“I mean everyone is scared, not scared but everyone is cautious,” Ngannou said. “Everyone is watching out because you never know, even me I’m watching out for my opponent and being careful. So it’s not something strange it’s just normal to watch out, to be careful.”
January 20th Ngannou has another opportunity to advance in his career and go straight to the top. Another opportunity sitting there waiting to be seized. How will he do it this time?
“Knockout, knockout two rounds.”
Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz in the works for UFC 223
UFC 223 looks to add a variety of intriguing bouts. With Paul Felder vs. Al Iaquinta reportedly set for the unannounced UFC 223 card, the promotion looks to add a high stakes female flyweight match-up. According to MMANYTT.com, sources confirmed a bout between Felice Herrig and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, is in the works for the pay-per-view card.
Assuming the match-up does come to be, both women have much to gain from a victory. For Herrig, she currently sits on a four-fight win streak. A streak in which the strawweight contender defeated Kailin Curran, Alexa Grasso, Justine Kish, and Cortney Casey. The MMA veteran, Herrig, began fighting professionally in 2009. As of late, her issues with the marketing machine that is the UFC have intensified.
After demonstrating her technical prowess over Justine Kish at UFC Fight Night 122: Chiesa vs. Lee, Herrig put her emotions on display. She stated at the post-fight media scrum, “Sometimes, I feel like, I’m not young and beautiful enough for the UFC to want to promote me. And it’s sad because I’ve really worked so hard to be here and it’s hard to see these people who’ve not been through what I’ve been through. Who just got into the UFC at the right time. They’re getting all these opportunities and I see how hard I work to get here and it’s just like, it doesn’t matter. I just feel like, ‘I’m not pretty enough and I’m not getting any younger'”.
A frustrated Felice Herrig then spoke to MMAJunkie.com in December. She claimed, “Aside from (former UFC women’s strawweight champ) Joanna (Jedrzejczyk), I’m the only strawweight who’s gone on a four-fight winning streak. That’s a fact. At this point, I want to fight someone in the top 10. It doesn’t really make sense for me to keep fighting girls that are ranked below me. That’s the whole point. If I want to keep working my way up. I fight the most dangerous girls outside the top 10”. The #9 ranked women’s flyweight has a point. In her UFC career, she recorded one loss in six appearances. Yet, she has one co-main event booking, while fighters like Michelle Waterson, booked the main event in her second UFC bout. In Waterson’s third bout, she received a co-main event scheduling. Understandably, Felice Herrig is upset with her situation.
Later in her interview, Herrig brought up Kowalkiewicz as a potential next opponent. “For whatever reason, I really want to fight Karolina. I just think that would be an exciting fight… Stylistically, I really like that fight. She’s ranked above (me), and it may be a good gauge for me,” she stated. Right now, it looks like Herrig is close to getting what she wants.
Kowalkiewicz last fought in her native country of Poland on the UFC Fight Pass card, UFC Fight Night 118: Cowboy vs. Till, in October. The Polish star defeated Jody Esquibel, after losing consecutive contests to former UFC female strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejcyk and Claudia Gadelha, respectively.
A win for either makes a good case for the next or an eventual title challenger. Kowalkiewicz holds a victory over current division champion, Rose Namajunas. While a win for Herrig would further establish her impressive win streak and undoubtedly give her the boost in the rankings she deserves.
Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet
Bellator 192 fight card has gone through a shake-up over the past week. Bellator president Scott Coker revealed last week that the scheduled welterweight title fight between Rory MacDonald and champion Douglas Lima will now be serving as the co-main event and the heavyweight matchup between Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson would instead take top billing. At the time no explanation was made for the change. Monday Douglas Lima was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss this change.
“I was little bummed, but it is what it is, it’s business you know. I was pretty excited you know? Being the main event, having Rampage fight as the co-main event, I was happy there. Then I was bummed out that they changed it back to the co-main event. It’s not going to change a thing for me, I’m just focusing on the fight.”
Lima has been notoriously looked over in the eyes of fight fans. A longtime member of Bellator and a two-time champion has not gotten the notice he deserves and hopes to get.
“I found out through the internet, nobody tells me anything, I didn’t know. the same thing happened in New York, I thought my fight would be before the two main events there, but it ended up being the first fight of the night on Pay-Per-View. Hopefully, it doesn’t take anything away from the fight, you know spotlight and stuff.”
Lima is looking to make all the naysayers take notice at Bellator 192 that takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Califonia on January 20th.
“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time. To get my name out there, to get people to know who I am. I’ve been delivering a lot of good fights, fights fans like to watch but no attention yet. I’m hoping though that after a win over Rory this week it will really put my name out there and show all these welterweights out there that I am for real.”
Al Iaquinta vs. Paul Felder rescheduled for UFC 223 in April
MMA fans around the world wept in deep sorrow when Al Iaquinta withdrew from a bout scheduled for UFC 218 against Paul Felder. Weep no more, for Paul Felder faces Al Iaquinta at UFC 223. Rumblings behind the match-up, first reported by FloCombat.com, came Sunday night before MMAFighting.com confirmed the bout scheduled for unannounced pay-per-view card, later in the evening.
The original bout fell through due to a severe knee injury to Iaquinta. He spoke to BJ Penn Radio about the injury nearly a week before the December 2nd, PPV event in Detriot. The Long Island real estate agent claimed, “I tore my PCL and my MCL maybe three or four months ago… for me to really put in a full training camp and do what I need to do, I would’ve had to just focus on fighting and physical therapy… it was the kind of thing where all roads led to me not kind of taking a risk and fighting on December 2nd”.
Iaquinta went on to say, “I kind of accepted the fight, but I never signed a bout agreement… I was kind of told I had to give them an answer pretty quick. It was a fight I thought I really wanted. I thought it was a good stylistic match-up for me, so I accepted the fight, and then thinking about it over the course of a day, we realized it probably wasn’t a smart decision for my health, for everything”.
An outspoken lightweight, he is not the first of his kind. Al Iaquinta is no stranger to idly waiting on the sideline for the UFC to make a move. Contract disputes and other bad strokes of luck left the Serra-Longo with three octagon appearances since 2015. The feud between Iaquinta and the promotion comes as a surprise when looking at the credentials of the aforementioned fighter. With an octagon record of 8-2, he earned notoriety as one of the best lightweights in the world. During his time in the UFC, he defeated Kevin Lee, Ross Pearson, Joe Lauzon, Jorge Masvidal, and most recently Diego Sanchez.
His opponent, “The Irish Dragon”, Paul Felder, holds an impressive UFC record of his own. At 7-3, Felder defeated tough competition as well. His record notes wins over Daron Cruickshank, Jason Saggo, Stevie Ray, and Charles Oliveira. Even more impressive than his record, his knockout ratio. At this stage of his career, Felder knockouts 55% of his opponents (10 knockouts in 18 career pro bouts).
Like his opponent Iaquinta, Paul Felder has a separate career outside of fighting. As many should notice, Felder found a role as a color commentator with the promotion he fights for. Following the footsteps in a long line of fighters before him, Felder announced multiple events alongside another new addition to the UFC broadcast team, Brendan Fitzgerald.
PPV card, UFC 223 and its location are not official yet. Despite a lack of an announcement, the event takes place in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Centre, according to multiple reports. Currently, the card features no official bouts. Reports state Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (per Jim Edwards), and Evan Dunham vs. Mairbek Taisumov (per Farah Hannoun) are both in the works for UFC 223.
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