EXCLUSIVE: Ngannou opens up on what fight money means and hardships

Francis Ngannou reveals what huge Tyson Fury fight payday will mean to him after growing up in poverty in Cameroon, with ex-UFC champion remembering his mum’s worries about food

  • Francis Ngannou is facing Tyson Fury in a crossover bout on October 28
  • Ngannou struggled financially growing up and watched his father pass away 
  • He says the money from his bout with Fury means so much to him and his family 

Former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou felt ‘powerless’ as he watched his mother worry about what food they could eat, the clothes on their backs, the shoes on their feet and the healthcare they couldn’t afford. 

The 37-year-old MMA star said his family’s financial restrictions lead to the death of his father as they couldn’t afford to bring him to a hospital to receive the treatment he required. 

Ngannou told Mail Sport he felt helpless in that moment and that spent the rest of his life working hard to ensure he and his family never had to worry about something like that again. 

He said next month’s crossover bout with Tyson Fury has played an important role in helping him secure financial security for his family. Ngannou said the combination of money from his MMA career and next month’s bout ‘means a lot to him’. 

Ngannou said he feels like he has ‘a place in society’ and beamed with delighted as he spoke about how he could afford to send his nephew to an expensive school and pay for his family to live in a nice neighbourhood.  

Former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou spent his childhood worrying about his family and felt ‘powerless’ as he watched his mother worry about money

Ngannou will go toe-to-toe with the Gypsy King in a highly anticipated crossover bout in Saudi Arabia on October 28 as part of Riyadh Season – the annual entertainment and sports festival

Ngannou returned to his childhood home after winning the UFC heavyweight title 

Speaking exclusively to Mail Sport, Ngannou said: ‘It [the money from the Fury bout] means a lot to me. It’s a lot to process, looking at where I started to where I am today. Where we are today in regards to my family too. It really does mean a lot to me and my biggest joy is to look at my family. 

‘I think about how we are secure, how we don’t have to worry at that terrible stuff anymore. We don’t have to worry about what to eat, we don’t have to worry about the clothes on our back, we don’t have to worry about the shoes on our feet. 

‘We don’t have to worry about if a family member gets sick [and paying for health care]. We have security now and that’s something we had been worried about our entire lives.

‘My dad passed away at home. He was sick for months. He couldn’t go to the hospital because we didn’t have the money. As a young kid, I was always around looking at him. I felt so powerless. 

‘Then over the years I was thinking, what if something like that happened again to my mum or one of my siblings. I was thinking, when will I be powerful enough to change things and to do something when needed. 

‘Over the years you get to the point where you think, okay, I think I can do this now.  That’s meant a lot to me. That’s a huge satisfaction.’

Ngannou added: ‘You see people living in different neighbourhoods. You see kids going to different schools. Even though you couldn’t afford it growing up, you can afford it today. 

‘You can afford to send a kid, whether that’s your own kid or your nephew, to those schools. You feel like you belong and you feel like you have your place in society. That’s what it means. It means a lot.’ 

He grew up in Cameroon and was forced to walk six miles to school before later leaving the country in pursuit of becoming a fighter

Ngannou made his way to Paris, where he forged his MMA career after being homeless 

Ngannou’s journey to where he is today is nothing less than remarkable. He grew up in a small Cameroonian village called Batie and walked six miles to school every day before going on to dig sand mines at 10 years old. 

As he got older, Ngannou made the journey from Cameroon to the north of the continent – travelling through Nigeria, Niger and Algeria before reaching Morocco in a pick-up truck. 

From there he was able to emigrate to Spain by water – but not before being forced to live in Moroccan forests. He was rejected from Spain several times before eventually making it into the European nation. 

However, Ngannou was seized upon arrival by the police and put into a detention centre for two months before being released. Following that, he snuck his way onto a train and made his way to France.

He settled in Paris but ended up sleeping on the streets while he looked for a boxing gym. The rising star eventually met trainer Fernand Lopez, who would convince him to take up MMA instead of boxing.

Ngannou says it gives him such pleasure being able to look after his family (pictured above)

Lopez told Ngannou to take up MMA as it would provide him with more immediate cash. And, it’s safe to say it did. The youngster climbed his way to the top of ladder and landed a UFC contract before going to win the heavyweight title. 

However, Ngannou’s biggest payday from his UFC days was £518,000 when he fought Ciryl Gane in a heavyweight clash 2022. Therefore, signing with the Professional Fighters League (PFL) will earn him a lot more money. 

Speaking at the first official press conference for their crossover bout, Fury said that Ngannou would be making in the region of £8million for their bout. Although, the MMA star never confirmed that number, it’s been well documented that next month’s clash will be his highest payday to date.

But, it’s not all about the money for Ngannou. He’s always wanted to be a boxer and he hopes the crossover bout with Fury will show the world what he is capable of doing in the ring. 

Ngannou will go toe-to-toe with the Gypsy King in a highly anticipated crossover bout in Saudi Arabia on October 28 as part of Riyadh Season – the annual entertainment and sports festival. 

The clash to find out who the ‘Baddest Man on the Planet’ is will be regarded as a professional fight and take place under the official rules of boxing with 3 judges ringside adopting the 10-point must system. 

Ngannou says he is training extra hard for the fight because of the hardships he has faced. As a result, he has teamed up with Mike Tyson for the crossover bout next month. 

Ngannou (left) is training with Mike Tyson (right) ahead of next month’s clash with Fury

Ngannou told Mail Sport that Mike Tyson is helping him physically, tactically and mentally 

Speaking about Tyson, Ngannou said: ‘Having Mike Tyson present just makes you realise what is happening. You know that you have a fight and obviously you are serious about it but it seems like there is something missing. 

‘You’re like okay I have a fight but what else do I need. Then you have Mike Tyson and he’s basically like the biggest boxing figure. It makes me think, oh man, this is serious, very very serious. It doesn’t get more serious than this. 

‘That alone brings you a lot of motivation. Even when you’re tired, even when you’re done for the day, I’m like man one more. I want to do one more. I’m like I just want to be like that man. So all that stuff, has helped me mentally already. 

‘Then of course, there is the technical aspect that he is bringing too. We all know how technical Mike Tyson was so obviously having his tips and hearing from him is very helpful for me. I won’t have his boxing style but I can definitely learn a lot from him.’ 

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