No dream is too big to be fulfilled. If you can believe it, you can achieve it and Francis Ngannou, the current UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) Heavyweight Champion, is the ideal example. Looking at his physique, you can hardly believe that he once had to rummage through trash cans for food.
You also cannot believe that he spent two months in jail, but his persistence has kept him going. He is the true definition of rags-to-riches, and today Francis Ngannou’s net worth is $4 million, an amount he is determined to increase. Check out the inspiring story of this heavyweight champion who defied all odds stacked against him.
A Childhood Dream to Be Like Mike Tyson
Ngannou grew up in Batié village in Cameroon, where he quickly became acclimatized to the poverty-stricken and war-torn surroundings. Life became more difficult because his father and mother divorced when Ngannou was six years old. He said it was due to his father’s violence; thus, the champion and his four siblings were raised by his single mother.
They had to live with relatives, and everyone expected Ngannou to turn out like his father, a ferocious street fighter, but the little boy wanted to make something of his life. Therefore once Ngannou turned ten, he decided to help out by working at the sand mines.
As MMA Junkie published, it was grueling work as Ngannou would spend hours shoveling sand into trucks that ferried it to big cities. They dug sand from the river beds where the fighter and his colleagues would stand all day with water rising to their shins as they scooped the sand. He would go to quarries where the risk of being buried alive was ever there, but Ngannou and fellow workers had no choice.
Despite the hardships, the dream to be like his hero, Mike Tyson, was deeply rooted in the young boy’s heart. Looking back, he even recognized that he missed out on his childhood; while others reminisce of how they played and watched cartoons, Ngannou only recalls the sand mines and quarries. No wonder he confessed that he hated his life and did his best to get out of the country in search of a better livelihood.
Afflicted by Adversity
The desire to do better was because no matter how hard Ngannou worked, life never seemed to give him a break. After spending days in the sand mines and quarries, he still could not afford basic school supplies such as pens and bags.
He also could not afford to pay tuition fees despite working at the mines for seven years but believed there had to be a better life, although the villagers laughed at his dream of being a boxer. As Ngannou told MMA Sucka, he was a dreamer whose ambition would not be hampered by the naysayers.
Thus, at 17, he left Cameroon for Morocco. It was the start of another challenging journey in pursuit of a dream. He got his food from the trash cans, arguing with rats about who would get the piece of rotten tomato. He had to be careful since he was illegally in Morocco, and cops looked for anyone trying to cross the border into Spain.
After living in Morocco for one year, Ngannou eventually managed to sneak into Spain but was jailed for two months for illegally getting to Europe by sea. After being released, he fled to France and slept in parking lots, relying on the kindness of strangers to give him a blanket since it was during winter.
Nevertheless, he still preferred the cold weather in France as a free man to the life in Morocco, and even referred to the parking lot as a five-star hotel.
Prosperity at Last
According to Indian Express, Ngannou began working at a homeless shelter, chopping vegetables. The shelter’s director then introduced the hopeful boxer to Didier Carmont, who ran a boxing training center in Paris. In 2013, Ngannou walked into the gym for the first time.
Carmont allowed him to train for free while providing the aspiring boxer with food and accommodation. His coaches advised him to take up MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) because it was the faster road to fame and success. Although he was reluctant, Ngannou received €2000 after a tournament in November 2013.
There was no looking back. In April 2014, he won his first heavyweight tournament, and the UFC signed a contract with him. His first fight under the UFC contract was with Luis Henrique whom he knocked out with a perfect left uppercut in Round 2. The 5-1 record began a meteoric rise to become the reigning UFC Heavyweight Champion.
Unfortunately, the champion is still not getting value for his talent. He was paid $600,000 for winning the UFC Heavyweight title while his opponent Cyril Gane pocketed $500,000. Compared to the $1.5 million his idol Tyson received upon winning the WBC (World Boxing Council) heavyweight title in 1986, Ngannou has every right to be hesitant to sign a contract extension. The fighter felt his deal with UFC is not offering much financial security thus is looking for a better deal.
The pay is so bad that he had to borrow money to attend a training camp in 2021. So far, he has had to turn down multiple offers because his contract with UFC is still binding, resulting in him losing out on nearly $7 million. All the same, the fights he has won enabled him to accumulate the $ million net worth, but Ngannou is ambitious and knows he deserves better.
He revealed he wants to face Tyson Fury and Fury even dared Ngannou to make the transition because that is where the real money is. Fury earned over $25 million from the Deontay Wilder fights alone. So, if Ngannou gets into the boxing ring with Fury, the Cameroonian’s net worth is sure to increase because he will pocket $32 million.
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Written by Allen Lee
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