Francis Ngannou: The UFC Champ on Hollywood’s VIP List


The heavyweight MMA champion and true superhero is on a mission to inspire Africa

You may know Francis Ngannou from the stunt movie franchise Jackass - he’s the UFC heavyweight champ who lands a punch to test the durability of ‘Danger’ Ehren McGhehey’s groin cup. Kerpow!

“The worst thing is you have to do it multiple times,” Francis recalled. “I’m like, ‘Bro, this guy will die.’" (McGhehey survived but we’re betting the memory is still painful.)

The UFC champion holds the world record for the hardest overhand right punch ever measured - so getting smacked by Francis Ngannou is like being hit by a Tesla. 

Francis Ngannou: The UFC Champ on Hollywood’s VIP List

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The heavyweight MMA champion and true superhero is on a mission to inspire Africa

You may know Francis Ngannou from the stunt movie franchise Jackass - he’s the UFC heavyweight champ who lands a punch to test the durability of ‘Danger’ Ehren McGhehey’s groin cup. Kerpow!

“The worst thing is you have to do it multiple times,” Francis recalled. “I’m like, ‘Bro, this guy will die.’" (McGhehey survived but we’re betting the memory is still painful.)

The UFC champion holds the world record for the hardest overhand right punch ever measured - so getting smacked by Francis Ngannou is like being hit by a Tesla. 

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True Superhero Francis Ngannou
MMA fighter Francis Ngannou’s professional record is 17 wins, 3 losses, and 0 draws

‘The Predator’ rises

Fans know Francis Ngannou as ‘The Predator’, the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight title holder weighing in at 250 pounds, standing 6’4” tall, with a deadly reach of 83” (more than six feet), born in Cameroon, West Africa in 1986. Ngannou has taken the UFC by storm since his 2015 debut and now he’s ready to take on the world. 

Ngannou’s speciality is mixed martial arts (MMA), no-holds-barred cage fighting combat based on striking, grappling, and ground fighting. It incorporates various combat sports techniques, and Francis Ngannou is not the type of man to pull his punches. 


Shaping a true superhero

So who is this MMA giant? Turns out, Francis Ngannou has been spoiling for a fight since he was 10 years old and working in an African sand mine. After his parents divorced, he bounced around foster homes and started worked as a child laborer shoveling sand into trucks for construction companies. The physical labor helped him develop but it was back-breaking work. “As a kid forced to do it, it was a stone on my throat,” he recalled.

Ngannou worshiped Mike Tyson and wanted to be a boxer like his American hero. The chances seemed slim in Cameroon though, so Ngannou decided to immigrate illegally to Paris, walk around until he found a boxing gym, and then get a trainer.

The plan didn’t unfold quite so easily. Instead, Ngannou, at the time aged 26, traveled through five countries while dodging police and bribing border control officers. He lived in forests, slept rough, and ate food from bins.

Ngannou told broadcaster Joe Rogan he was ‘scared as s***’ when questioned by Algerian officers about his fake ID. He made it to Morocco, then Spain where he was jailed for two months, then crossed into France where Ngannou was helped by a fellow refugee from Cameroon. “He said: 'I'm sleeping in a parking lot, if you want I will show you where.' And I was like: ‘I really want that.’”

Francis Ngannou, True Superhero
Coach Fernand Lopez training with Ngannou

Ngannou found an ally in Fernand Lopez, an MMA Factory coach in Paris who convinced him to switch from boxing to MMA. He donated sports equipment and let Ngannou sleep in the gym for a few months before the champ went professional. Ngannou was picked up by the UFC in 2015. The rest is the stuff of a rags-to-riches Hollywood movie - and Ngannou certainly has Hollywood’s full attention now. 

In addition to Jackass Forever (2022), Ngannou had a cameo role in the movie Fast & Furious 9. After Ngannou's thrilling 2021 victory against Stipe Miocic to become the new UFC heavyweight champion in Las Vegas, everyone from Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson to Shaq weighed in on his performance.



Giving back 

Ngannou has the title and the clout, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots. He still works alongside his friends at the sand mine when he visits Cameroon. 

Francis Ngannou, True Superhero
Ngannou defends his title in 2022 against undefeated interim champion Ciryl Gane


The UFC champ is also building Cameroon's first fully-equipped gym so he can provide other athletes with the opportunity to make their dreams come true. His aim is to open the door to a better life for children through the use of combat sports and teaching the principles of respect and discipline.

“When I started, I had nothing,” Ngannou said. “But when you start [to earn money], you start collecting things: I want this, I want that. The purpose is not collecting things, though. The purpose is to do something great. Finish the dream you started.”

Francis Ngannou, True Superhero
Francis Ngannou, true superhero

Ngannou hopes to use his fame and the opening of the state-of-the-art gym to inspire African children.

“The problem in the small villages is that people easily give up,” Ngannou said. “Yes, it’s difficult but not impossible, and this is the main idea that we want to preach to the kids - that it’s always possible. As long as you can stand up, no matter how much you fall, you’re still in the race.”

“I want to give an opportunity to children in my country, like me, who have a dream to become a doctor or something. If I reach my dream, it will give me the opportunity to help those in my country who have their own dreams.”

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