Officially the biggest puncher in combat sport history, Africa’s Francis Ngannou begins his journey to another heavyweight title shot this week when he meets legendary Cain Velasquez in the octagon at UFC Fight Night in Arizona. UFC fans can catch the action on the home of UFC, SuperSport 6 (DStv Channel 206 ) live at 04H00 CAT on Monday 18 February.
The fearsome Cameroonian, who broke the world record for punching power two years ago, rates Velasquez as his best opponent, notwithstanding the outspoken American having laughed off his power this week.
“Cain is one of the greatest fighters in this division,” the man known as ‘The Predator’ told SuperSport from his home in France this week. “This is a big opportunity for me, to beat one of the best.”
Ngannou attributes his natural power to his family roots; a family he says has a reputation for power. “My dad and uncles are powerful people, so it runs in the family.”
Ngannou has drawn from this legendary power to emerge as one of the most dangerous campaigners in the heavyweight division. It’s a world he loves.
“Mixed martial arts is the only thing for me,” he said. “It’s the only activity I’ve had in my whole life. It’s my full-time job . . . the only thing for me.”
He hopes that beating Velasquez, a former two-time UFC heavyweight champion, will earn him a title crack against Daniel Cormier after falling short in his first title crack a year ago. He would like to fight in Africa but says this would be unlikely as champion given the economics around pay-per-view events, making a New York or Las Vegas site more probable.
Despite this, he recognises the rise of fighters from Africa in the UFC, saying it’s time to “recognise and put Africa on the map.”
For now, it’s Velasquez who looms as a mountain of a challenge. The owner of a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, he is fast and relentless, although there’s no telling how he might have changed after a two-and-a-half year lay-off.
Ngannou brings good game himself. Apart from his devastating power, he’s a natural fighter with outstanding stand-up and the resolve to beat anyone.
The main card also features Alexandra Albu of Russia against Emily Whitmire of the US.