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    Francis Ngannou Discusses Contract, Ciryl Gane Before UFC 270 Heavyweight Title Fight


    Welcome to The Weekly Takedown, Sports Illustrated’s in-depth look at MMA. Every Thursday, this column will offer insight and information on the most noteworthy stories in the fight world.

    Francis Ngannou is the best striker in the world. Yet that is far from his greatest strength.

    The reigning UFC heavyweight champion, who has won three-fourths of his fights by knockout or TKO, looks to add another KO victory to his legacy this Saturday at UFC 270 in a bout against Ciryl Gane. And even though Ngannou possesses incredibly strong fists, he has an even stronger resolve.

    At only nine, Ngannou began working in the sand mines in Cameroon. Later in life, he fought off advances from gangs. In pursuit of a new life, he even spent two months in jail in Spain after illegally entering Europe.

    “I always believed in my future,” Ngannou said. “When the gang approached me, I knew the outcome. It didn’t matter how long it would take, it always ends the same way. That’s not the path I wanted, and I didn’t want to ruin my family reputation by being a gang member. I had my own dreams and I didn’t want to jeopardize them with that lifestyle.

    “And even when I was in jail, I was filled with enthusiasm. I knew I had all kinds of opportunities when I got out.”

    A fighting spirit filled with optimism pumps energy into Ngannou’s soul. That resolve is now being put to test in a contract dispute with UFC President Dana White, as Ngannou is unwilling to fight again under his current contract following this Saturday. But Ngannou has been through far worse than a prolonged contract negotiation, and he understands that his price tag will soar even higher if he defeats the undefeated Gane.



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