Before his heavyweight title shot against Stipe Miocic, Francis Ngannou was regarded as a near unstoppable force in the Octagon. After the world watched him get walloped by the Miocic for five rounds, however, that perception changed. Suddenly, he looked like a flawed, inexperienced fighter that anybody with the right gameplan could beat. When Ngannou followed this loss up with an utterly forgettable decision loss to Derrick Lewis, fans began to question his mental game too.
In the span of a few months, he’d devolved from a juggernaut to a flash in the pan. Hope for his future as a world-class heavyweight was all but gone.
But then, Francis Ngannou turned things around. Violently so.
First, he crushed Curtis Blaydes in 45 seconds. Then, he took out the former heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez in a mere 26 seconds. Then, last weekend, in the main event of UFC Minneapolis, he brutalized another former champ in Junior dos Santos in just 71 seconds.
On the heels of these three abrupt and destructive wins, he’s reclaimed his previous reputation as the heavyweight most dangerous fighter — perhaps even surpassed it.
So, how did he do it? What changed?
Well, he says it comes down to having fun.
“The difference for the last three fights was maybe me having fun, finding myself,” Francis Ngannou told MMA Junkie at the UFC Minneapolis post-fight press conference “Because after my two losses, I was trying to figure out why I was doing this. Then I realized at the beginning (of my career), I didn’t even want to do MMA. I didn’t expect to do a professional career in MMA. But since I was having fun training, I was like, ‘OK, let’s do it – it’s fun.’ So that’s why I started.
“Then at some point, I kind of forgot that. So in the last three fights, I put that in the line and tried to focus on it – just to have fun.”
Suffice it Francis Ngannou is at his scariest when he’s having fun.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 7/1/2019.