Francis Ngannou has owned up to being overly gun-shy during his UFC 226 fight against Derrick Lewis but has promised that the best is still yet to come.
UFC 226 was a hugely enjoyable event. The fights, the finishes and the historical victory that topped it all off, the reasons to complain were few and far between.
Well, that was until perhaps the most-anticipated non-title bout of the evening went down.
If you had to hypothetically pair two fighters together that would all-but-guarantee a brutal finish then Derrick Lewis and Francis Ngannou would no doubt be right in the middle of the discussion.
Each man had a proven record as a vicious KO artist and in his last outing, Ngannou had fought for a UFC title. It was a clash of two in-form giants within the divisional rankings and the fans were understandably ecstatic when the pair began their walkout into the T-Mobile Arena.
The fight, unfortunately, was nothing short of an absolute stinker.
Both men just didn’t engage with the same level of ferocity you would have expected given their reputations and after all was said and done over the scheduled three-rounds, the UFC president Dana White let it be known exactly how annoyed he was with both men.
But Ngannou, in particular, came under some serious fire.
Dana attacked the former title-challenger – criticising his ego in the leadup to his UFC 220 clash with Stipe Miocic. Of course, the champion at the time humbled the challenger in brutal fashion and as a result, one of the division’s top prospects lost a considerable amount of shine.
Speaking to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani on yesterday’s edition of Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show, ‘The Predator’ explained his immediate reaction to White’s ‘ego’ comments and how, according to him, they seemed to come somewhere out of the leftfield.
“We haven’t spoke together. I don’t know why. If he had something to say, he would tell me.
“If someone has an issue with you and doesn’t tell you, how would you [respond]? If you haven’t seen him or talked with [him]? If you have an issue, tell me.
“We are all human. I don’t necessarily agree I have an ego. I’m never one to stay down when I fell down. You have to have that ego when you’re a fighter. You have to stand there and believe you’re #1. That’s ego. But not the one to hurt the people around me.”
As for the fight itself, Ngannou claimed that the fresh memories of his shortcomings against Miocic caused him to enter the fight too cautiously.
“In the cage, for that fight, I was just thinking about my body, scared about what happened the last time. It might happen again, and if that happened it’s no good. So I tried to control it.”
The former-champion of the world Junior dos Santos is the man Francis seems to have his eye on next and with a fight like his showdown with Lewis, he, of course, managed to come out relatively unscathed making a matchup in the near future very possible.
“I have no injuries. This year I want to fight. Who I want to fight, exactly? I was supposed to fight Junior almost a year, 10 months ago. He just came back. Great win. So, maybe that one.”
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena