A concert of speakers welcomed the fashionable athlete of the country, Francis Ngannou, world heavyweight champion of mixed martial arts, who returned triumphantly this past weekend to his hometown of Batié, western Cameroon.
The 1.93-meter-tall and 113-kilogram colossus, nicknamed ‘The Predator’, defeated the American by KO on March 28 in Las Vegas. Stipe Miocic, holder of the title, thus becoming the first African to obtain this world consecration in the most prestigious tournament of this modality, the American Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
Standing in the back of a truck Francis NgannouWith a smile on his face and showing the crowd the golden champion belt, he greeted the inhabitants of his small town who took to the streets to cheer him on and celebrate his victory.
While the endless convoy of vehicles that accompanied the 34-year-old champion crossed the main axis that serves this town of some 20,000 people, hundreds of children, women and the elderly were joining as the procession progressed.
On the esplanade of the foundation created by Francis Ngannou in Batié to supervise the young athletes, about 2,000 people took their places for a welcoming ceremony.
There, the world champion, admirer of Mike tyson, spoke to his followers in a calm and calm voice, far from the image of the ‘Predator’ of the ring as the king of an extreme combat sport that allows kicks, punches, knees, elbows and immobilizations on the ground.
“Here’s the belt,” he said in Ghomala, a language spoken in western Cameroon, in front of a jubilant crowd. “This belt is very nice, but it is only a piece of metal. For me, the most important thing is what it transmits, as it represents faith and determination, “he continued. Ngannou.
Francis Ngannou, born in 1986, spent his childhood in Batié. He dropped out of college and took odd jobs to survive, successively working in a sand quarry or as a motorcycle taxi driver.
Later he discovered combat sports. But the lack of prospects in Cameroon pushed him into exile. In 2013, he smuggled into France and spent time sleeping on the street in Paris before meeting people who allowed him to pursue his career in martial arts.
“I am not a legend. I’m just a small town boy who believed in his dreams, “he said. Ngannou. “What I remember about my career is that it is possible as long as you believe in it, it is possible as long as you move forward,” he added.
“When he was very young, I already saw a lot of determination in him. I understood that I had a very specific goal to achieve in life, but I had never revealed it to anyone, ”testified Ferdinand Kamga, who rubbed shoulders with the“ predator ”while working in the sand pit.
In 2019, Francis Ngannou He opened a sports center in his town to train young people in martial arts. English Sam michael crook, an eight-time jiu-jitsu champion, settled in Batié in 2019 to supervise the youth of the center of Ngannou. Several dozen young people train there. “Everything is free,” said the Briton. “This is a first center. We have planned a second room in Buea in the southwest region, but we will not stop there, ”he promised. Francis Ngannou.
“The project is huge and its objective is to cover the entire national territory with opportunities that are given to young people so that they can be trained in sports and promote their personal development; which will allow children to believe in their dreams, “he said.
“Francis picked me up on the street to put me where I am now. He had nothing to eat. Today I have a good framework to train at any time ”, he assured Desmond Tamungang, 28, Cameroonian mixed martial arts champion.
He is scheduled to participate in the African Championships in mid-May with the aim of achieving the same track record as his mentor. “I am working hard so that this world champion title stays here. Nothing will stop me from having this belt. I want to have more than Francis Ngannou ”, he assured. In Batié, he is not the only one who treasures this dream.