Heavyweight Francis Ngannou (15-3) has led a remarkable life. The Cameroonian went from living homeless in winter on the streets of Paris, to competing for a world title on the big stage in Boston at UFC 220.
It was an incredible journey to the top, but there was no Hollywood ending.
Not then anyway.
Despite possessing devastating power knockout power, Ngannou is a softly spoken, thoughtful individual.
Throughout his incredible journey to the octagon, he has absorbed many influences, including - somewhat surprisingly - Bollywood cinema.
As Ngannou heads towards a blockbuster rematch with Miocic at UFC 260, the 34-year-old reflected on a time when he was just a young man, with a deep love of India.
“When I was a kid, I used to watch a lot of Indian movies like Teri Kasam and Disco Dancer - I love that!” he said.
“At the time, we didn't have a TV, and I had to walk for like an hour to go see a movie. I have a friend who is Indian, and we still always get together and watch Indian movies. I feel like they are all about love and happiness, and song, it's about life, you know?”
“I love India. I remember when I was a kid, hoping that inside of me I was maybe part Indian somewhere back. I hope my Indian fans support me, that means so much to me,” he added.
Francis Ngannou's road to redemption
Following the Miocic setback, Ngannou’s next fight was a lackluster display against Derrick Lewis (19-5.) It resulted in another loss on the judges’ scorecards.
They say champions are truly judged upon how they respond to adversity. In that regard, Ngannou’s reaction has been emphatic.
The 6’4 star has knocked out all four of his opponents since.
Remarkably, all of those stoppages put together, clock in at just 162 seconds of time spent in the Octagon.
Two of his victims were former UFC champions. Light work for ‘The Predator.’
The fascinating question remains though. Has Ngannou made the necessary adjustments to overcome Miocic at the second time of asking?
“I added everything, because the last time, really nothing was on point, not even time,” said Ngannou.
“This time, I have more time to prepare. I have more experience. Everything is ready to take this kind of challenge, which wasn't the case at all last time.”
Not only has the challenger been working on his wrestling, but he’ll also have a new face in his corner. Namely, the UFC welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman.
“I came to see him as a brother,” said Ngannou.
“He's been in this position before. It's emotional support and he's like a mentor. And he has got wrestling expertise,” he added.
Miocic is widely regarded as the best UFC heavyweight of all-time, while Ngannou appears ready to find the perfect ending to his rags-to-riches tale.
“I will say that perseverance and dedication always have a reward. It might not be what you want, it might not be on your time, but it always comes,” said Ngannou.
“If you keep keep digging, there's always something down there for you. Don't just give up when you are so close. Chase your dream, believe in something,” Ngannou added.
If Francis Ngannou can achieve his dream and clinch the UFC heavyweight title it would indeed be an epic story – perhaps even one worthy of the great Bollywood films that he remembers so fondly of his youth.
[Kindly h/t to Sportskeeda MMA if any quotes are used from this interview]
Francis Ngannou will be on Sony’s next Ultimate Guide to the UFC.