Francis Ngannou: In France, I’m French When I Win & Cameroonian When I Lose
UFC Heavyweight Champion Francis Ngannou has suggested the media in France are very fickle when it comes to his representation of the European country.
At the opening pay-per-view of 2022, two former teammates at Paris’ MMA Factory gym collided. On one side of the Octagon was a Cameroon native who built his life and career in France. Opposite him was a La Roche-sur-Yon native, born and bred in the west side of the nation.
In the main event, it was Ngannou who emerged victoriously and left the cage as the undisputed heavyweight king. He did so despite carrying a torn MCL into the contest and following a difficult opening two rounds.
After struggling on the feet against “Bon Gamin” for the first 10 minutes, “The Predator” adjusted his strategy and won the remaining three frames thanks to top control and an impressive display of wrestling.
With the victory, Ngannou closed the book on his feud with former coach Fernand Lopez, defied the odds, and established a strong position for future negotiations with the UFC. A defeat may well have seen him depart the promotion.
Given the two names involved in the headline clash, it’s unsurprising that French interest was at an all-time high ahead of UFC 270. But with Ngannou’s history and frequent praise of the opportunities he was given in France, it was perhaps surprising to see the attitude of some of the country’s media towards him.
At the UFC 270 press conference during fight week, Ngannou had a heated exchange with a French reporter who asked him if he’d “brainwashed” his time at Paris’ MMA Factory gym out of his memory. The champ later took issue with another journalist who seemed to suggest Ngannou had described Gane as an easy opponent.
During an episode of Ariel Helwani’s The MMA Hour in the week following the PPV event, Ngannou was asked why members of the French media pushed a negative narrative about him leading up to the contest.
“It’s (attitude of the French media) because I was fighting a French guy,” Ngannou said. “That’s how it happens in France. In France, when you lost, you are Cameroonian; when you win, you’re French-Cameroonian or French. And this time I was fighting a real French guy, so they built up the story of the villain and the good guy. I mean, it’s just media. After the fight, a lot of them, they just changed their mind. Some people just wrote back the article, like, ‘A French-Cameroonian retained his title,’ all that kind of stuff. It’s the media, you can’t control that stuff.
“But regardless of that, I know that I have a huge fanbase in France,” added Ngannou. “I have people in France who love me and that’s all that matters. That’s the people who I represent. In France, my fans, my friends, those who even became my family, you know, that’s why I’m happy about France.”
Despite moving permanently to the United States to train at the Xtreme Couture gym, Ngannou has previously returned to France and certainly appears to appreciate the support he still receives from his fanbase across the Atlantic.
It’ll be interesting to see how the French media approaches Ngannou’s next fight, and whether, like Ngannou says, they’ll follow a different narrative if he’s not up against a French national.