Francis Ngannou, right, in a fight against Derrick Lewis in 2018 in Las Vegas. Photo: John Locher/AP

CAPE TOWN – One might think that fighting for a UFC heavyweight title would be the ultimate dream.

Of course it is right up there, but for Francis Ngannou, getting his mom to travel from Cameroon to the ‘Land of the Free’, to watch him fight is just as special to him.

On two occasions her visa application was rejected. One can only imagine the heartbreak.

I had the awesome opportunity to chat with him over the phone this week ahead of his fight with Junior dos Santos

And one thing that stood out for me the most was the warmth in his voice when referring to his mother, Christine.

Here I was chatting to a 1.93m heavyweight notoriously known for his KO power.

In that time, I forgot all his exploits in the octagon – all I could hear was man who holds his mom in the highest regard.

It really grabbed me, maybe it has something to do with the way I feel about my mom, Charmain Kiewietz.

“She has never been to one of my fights,” says the next potential UFC heavyweight contender.

“We have been trying to get her to come watch my fights, but you know how it is applying for a visa here. Her visa application was denied twice.

“But I am hopeful that in the future she can come, maybe to (Las) Vegas.

“Maybe she can come watch me in France soon,” says the Cameroonian, who is based in France after moving there at the age of 26 to originally pursue a career in boxing.

France has taken the step to legalise Mixed Martial Arts starting in January 1st, 2020, a big relief for plenty French-based fighters who want to ply their trade without having to travel all the time.

And Ngannou is one of them.

According to @MMAJunkie, big boss Dana White has been promising an event in France for several years, and once the sport is legalised at the start of 2020, White can start making a push for the world’s biggest MMA promotion.

Sadly, things don’t look so bright for Africa at this point in time.

“I have not spoken directly to Dana, but I have been speaking to his crew, and they don’t seem keen on coming to Africa in the near future.

“But I have hope for our people and Africa,” Ngannou said.

As we turned our attention back to UFC Fight Night in Minneapolis, which takes place on Saturday night, Ngannou (13-3) was straight to the point.

After JDS sat down with @MMAJunkie and stated that “Francis is a little above average”, and that “he has all the power without the right control”, Ngannou was frank in his response.

“Julian, Junior (21-5) is scared.

“He is trying to convince himself that this fight is not going to be that bad, but it’s like you standing by a fire with your hands over the flame and hoping you’re not going to burn.”

In the headline event of the night, these two warriors are known for their striking, and it is expected that this fight won’t go the distance.

“We are the same style, but it will be tricky, and I don’t want to focus on striking alone,” he says.

Ngannou’s power was put on display in his last fight when he floored former heavyweight champion, Cain Velasquez in just 26 seconds.

The two-time former UFC heavyweight champ JDS has been calling Ngannou out for the last two years now, and Ngannou believes that this fight will be good for him.

“If I win this fight, I deserve the title fight next, whether it be Daniel Cormier (current HW champion) or Stipe Miocic who are set to fight each other in August at UFC241.

“There is nothing left for me but to fight for the title,” he added.

* The UFC Fight Night will be broadcast live on SS11 from 3am on Sunday.

Main Card (9pm, ESPN)

Francis Ngannou (13-3) v Junior dos Santos (21-5)

Jussier Formiga (23-5) v Joseph Benavidez (27-5)

Demian Maia (26-9) v Anthony Rocco Martin (16-4)

Roosevelt Roberts (8-0) v Vinc Pichel (11-2)

Drew Dober (20-9, 1NC) v Marco Polo Reyes (8-5)

Alonzo Menifield (8-0) v Paul Craig (11-3)

Prelims

Journey Newson (7-1) v Ricardo Ramos (12-2)

Erik Anders (11-4) v Vinicius Moreira (9-2)

Vince Murdock (10-5) v Jordan Griffin (17-6)

Jared Gordon (14-3) v Dan Moret (13-5)

Justin Ledet (9-2, 1NC) v Dalcha Lungiambula (9-1)

Emily Whitmire (4-2) v Amanda Ribas (6-1)

Junior Albini (14-5) v Maurice Greene (7-2)

@juliankiewietz


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