Heavyweight contender Francis "The Predator" Ngannou yearns for his home in Africa, but for now his pursuit of the UFC championship is all-consuming.
The Cameroonian remains based in France, but his march towards a title shot continues in the US this weekend when he fights Junior Dos Santos of Brazil in the headliner of UFC Fight Night in Minneapolis.
The action will be broadcast live on SuperSport.
Vaunted for his striking and stand-up skills, Ngannou is determined to beat Dos Santos before setting up a championship fight against Daniel Cormier.
He expected to land a shot after his last win, a devastating stoppage of Cain Velasquez, but he was frozen out, much to his disappointment.
“I want this to be my last fight without a title [on the line]. If I beat Dos Santos, there is no explanation not to give me the [title] fight.”
Dos Santos, like Ngannou, is known for his striking, which is why most experts are predicting a firefight that is unlikely to go the distance.
“We are the same style,” said Ngannou in a conference call on Wednesday evening. “It will be tricky, but I don’t want to focus on his striking alone.”
He feels ambivalent about his last win, against Velasquez, almost as if he expected it. For Ngannou, it was a means to an end. “I wanted to be where I was before. For me, I was going down this road for a second time; it was a good feeling,” he said, referencing his first title march that ended with a points defeat to Stipe Miocic last January.
He says the key to victory this weekend will rest with his attitude. “I must have fun, enjoy it, enjoy my team, be happy. I must let my skills explain themselves. I must be me – that will be enough.”
Similarly, he says that “being happy, relaxed and mind-free” will bring out his best against one of the division’s danger men.
Part of his drive for success is to boost his family, all of whom live in Cameroon. The first time he relocated to Paris, it took him four years to return home.
Happily, he visited three times last year and has ventured home once this year.
“I love Africa, I am African,” he said joyously. “I get homesick. I’m by myself here.”
He already enjoys hero-like status in the central African country. A win this weekend will underscore his growing popularity.
Better still, it will put him firmly on track for another title shot, making him not just MMA’s king of Africa, but king of the MMA world.
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