Five fights separate Francis Ngannou from his first title shot against Stipe Miocic in 2018. Four of them have ended with his hand raised, care of KO/TKO. None of those four wins have made it past the opening round.
So when Ngannou looks back at his fight with Miocic at UFC 220, he struggles with what he sees.
“I’m not taking credit from Stipe, he was the better fighter that night,” said Ngannou at Thursday’s UFC 260 press conference, adding that “when I look at that fight, I hate watching that fight. Because I don’t recognize myself. Even the way that I’m fighting, the way that I’m rushing, that guy looked like me, but I don’t recognize that sort of style.”
Miocic and Ngannou will meet for the second time this Saturday night. The pair’s first meeting ended in a unanimous decision win for Miocic, who controlled the bulk of the fight after weathering an early storm. Ngannou admits that he did make “a lot of mistakes leading up to that fight. I wasn’t even myself. I didn’t even have emotion in that fight. I don’t know. I was just there. Like, a lack of emotion.”
This time, promised Ngannou, “things will be different. I have enough time. Me and my team, we put everything down right, and I think it’s going to be right.” The Cameroonian fighter is just glad that, three years later, it’s still Miocic who holds heavyweight gold. “I always wanted to have this fight for the title against Stipe.”
Ngannou admits he had a lot of questions heading into the first fight. Some self-doubt, perhaps. “I don’t have that concern anymore. I had better preparation this time, and I have that experience [from the first fight,” he explained. And, added Ngannou, “I think skill wise, I have improved a lot. And I still have a lot of places to move in this sport. I might be 34-years old, but I believe I’m very young in the sport.”
Opponent Miocic is 38. And is the greatest heavyweight of all time, agreed Ngannou. “His record says it itself. You can’t argue about that.” Although he’ll look to make his own case starting this Saturday. “I might go to change it, but as for now, he has it.”
“The Predator” will have a familiar face for UFC fans in his corner this Saturday night. That would be welterweight champion Kamaru Usman. “We met the first time in our UFC debut, but since then we became more than friends. Just like family,” revealed Ngannou. Usman, Ngannou added, is “an inspiration, because he’s a champion, that I’m not yet.”
Come Saturday, however, Francis Ngannou very well may be.
UFC 260 takes place Saturday, March 27 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. The main card airs live on PPV (via ESPN+ in the U.S.) starting at 10PM ET.