Francis “The Predator” Ngannou (12-3 MMA, 7-2 UFC) announced today on Instagram that he has opened the first-ever full MMA gym in his native home of Cameroon.
Ngannou was born in Batié, Cameroon, a village in the western portion of the country. Ngannou experienced a youth plagued by poverty and hardship, even joining the labor force at the young age of twelve to help his family make ends meet.
Ngannou worked at the local sand quarry, an extremely arduous job that consisted of difficult physical labor. During his formative years, Ngannou also faced pressures to join local gangs.
At twenty-two, Ngannou began to train in boxing. Four years later, he would move to Paris, France, in the hopes of boxing professionally.
In France, Ngannou dealt with homelessness before finding the man who would eventually take him under his wing, Didier Carmont.
It was Carmont who provided Ngannou with a place to live and a place train, and it was Carmont who would eventually introduce Ngannou to MMA.
Since that introduction, Ngannou has rapidly risen to the top of the sport, even challenging then-UFC heavyweight champion, Stipe Miocic, at UFC 220 in January of 2018.
Speaking with MMAJunkie in 2016, Ngannou pledged to use his martial arts success to aid the youth in his native community.
“’I want to give some opportunity for children like me who dream of this sport and don’t have an opportunity like me,’” Ngannou said. “’The last time I was in Cameroon, I brought a lot of materials for boxing and MMA to open a gym. Now I just bought a big space to start the gym, as well.
“’A lot of children now in Cameroon, because of me, they have a dream. They say, ‘I will be a champion in MMA. I will do boxing like Francis,’ because they saw me when I was young. I didn’t have anything. I didn’t have any opportunity. And today, they see me, and they are dreaming. They are thinking that something is possible. Even when they are so poor, something is possible in life. … It’s not easy. It’s so hard, but it’s possible.'” – MMAJunkie
Now a bonafide star within the realm of combat sports, Ngannou has delivered on his promise to give back to his community in Cameroon.
“The very first full MMA and combat sport GYM in Cameroon by . www.francisngannoufoundation.org .
#thepredator” – Francis Ngannou
Ngannou announced that the gym, which he says is the first of its kind in Cameroon, was financed by the Francis Ngannou Foundation, Ngannou’s own non-profit charity.
The foundation’s mission statement reads, “We are honored to be building the first fully equipped gym in Cameroon. We aspire to provide the chance to fight for good and open doors to a life unexpected. The Francis Ngannou Foundation is a non-profit organization created to enable the youth of Cameroon to take action in ways that make a significant, positive difference in their lives.”
Additionally, the site explains why this issue is dear to Ngannou’s heart. “By daring to dream, Francis knows firsthand the impact that combats sports can have on one’s outlook- and outcome,” the site explains. “Wanting to provide the same opportunity given to him for those in his hometown, the Francis Ngannou Foundation was formed. Using the beauty of combat sports and teaching the principles of respect and discipline, we aim to arm these children with the skills to expand their horizons and realize their dreams.”
The Ngannou Foundation also praises the values combat sports impart to its adherents, saying that “trainees can begin to discover and improve their skills while learning the fundamental lessons of sportsmanship.”
Ngannou, 32, recently defeated Curtis Blaydes in the pair’s rematch back in November of 2018 in what was considered a must-win for the former title-challenger. The Cameroonian is set to face former UFC heavyweight champion, Cain Velasquez, at UFC Phoenix in February.
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