Francis Ngannou received a key piece of advice from Georges St-Pierre following the final fight of the legendary champion’s career.
In a recent segment posted on his YouTube channel, Ngannou was asked for his thoughts on several notable UFC fighters and when the topic of “GSP” came up, he recalled the advice that St-Pierre gave him backstage at Madison Square Garden after St-Pierre’s middleweight title bout against Michael Bisping at UFC 217 in November 2017.
“I think Georges St-Pierre is just a legend,” Ngannou said. “I wasn’t around when he was here, but I had the opportunity to meet him a couple of times. Very great guy, very humble, you couldn’t imagine that he’s the Georges St-Pierre that he was on TV, which is a superstar and everything. Very calm guy, French-speaking so he’s very proud of that side of that French connection, that’s why we connected. Great fighter.
“I watched his last fight in Madison Square Garden against Michael Bisping, that was his comeback after four years and his performance that night was just incredible. But he told me backstage, ‘Man, it’s not easy to come back. If you ever retire, don’t come back after four years.’ Really cool. So I got to connect with his friend who was his manager at the same time. Yeah, very good person.”
St-Pierre capped off his 15-year pro career by submitting Bisping to add the UFC middleweight title to his collection and then subsequently retired. Prior to that, St-Pierre had established himself as the greatest welterweight fighter in history with notable wins over Nick Diaz, Carlos Condit, Jake Shields, B.J. Penn, and Matt Hughes among several others. After a narrow split decision win over Johny Hendricks in November 2013, St-Pierre took a lengthy hiatus from competition and he cautioned Ngannou against attempting to do the same.
Ngannou turned 35 this past September, six months after finally becoming the UFC heavyweight champion with an emphatic knockout of Stipe Miocic. He has not openly spoken about retirement, but has expressed an interest in pursuing opportunities outside of the octagon, particularly boxing.
While Ngannou felt an immediate kinship with St-Pierre, the same cannot be said about Nate Diaz, who Ngannou was also asked about. However, like St-Pierre, Ngannou has plenty of appreciation for how Diaz carries himself.
“Man, I don’t know how to describe Nate Diaz’s personality,” Ngannou said. “I think he’s just a psychopath, he’s just crazy, he doesn’t give a sh*t about anything. I love that part of him. He’s just there to fight, have fun, he doesn’t care if he wins or if he loses. He just wants to have fun and enjoy and nobody will tell him what to do. He does exactly what he wants to do and that’s it. He doesn’t care at all.”
Next on Ngannou’s schedule is his first defense of the heavyweight title. He meets interim champion Ciryl Gane in a unification bout on Jan. 22 at UFC 270 in Anaheim, Calif.
See what else Ngannou had to say about some of the UFC’s other luminaries.
“It’s really hard for me to make clear statement on Izzy because it’s gonna be emotional. I talk Izzy as a brother, so things that I say about him might not be considered by somebody but I say he’s a great guy, the best fighter in the game definitely. By the way, I tried to get him for this training camp but the travel restrictions with New Zealand wasn’t really helpful for us so he couldn’t make it, but he would have loved to come here and help me for the striking part of the game, to work on everything. Because when you look at his style he just does Ciryl does but in a better way and he was willing to come down here and help me with my camp, but he couldn’t make it. He’s my brother, my African brother. He’s like my one-third [along with Kamaru Usman] since we are three kings.”
“I’m very inspired by his personality. He knows exactly what he wants and it doesn’t matter what people think or what people say he will always reply, fight back, and let you know that he doesn’t give a sh*t at all. It’s really inspiring to see somebody in this level, these nasty words, to deal with it as he does. To be able to disconnect from everything, don’t care about what you think or what happened and just do his thing and do it right because at the end of the day what truly matters is what you think and what you’re doing. There will always be a lot of opinions, ‘Oh, you’re not good, you should do this or that.’ A thousand of them, but we only need one to be on line, which is yours.”
“Kamaru Usman is my brother from another mother. Very inspiring. Yesterday I was just at the Fighters Only awards, presented him with Male Fighter of the Year, but I think he could have won all the categories. Very great person, I know him personally as a brother, as a family member, I get close with his parents, his mom, his dad, his brothers. We are now a family, we are now connected as a family. Unfortunately, he hasn’t really met some people from my family, but I’ve met a lot of people in his family and we are just family.
“Besides that, if you go from his professional record, he’s the best fighter pound-for-pound and I think in my opinion he’s definitely the best fighter of all time. He’s undefeated, with at least four or five title defences, which is something that nobody have. They have done that, but he’s doing it in a pretty way.”
“He’s a very interesting guy. He’s a good fighter though, really good. He fought Kamaru twice and before that he had some great, great fights, some great knockouts. The fight that he was even like an underdog, I remember when he fought Darren Till, I think it was in London. In that fight he was an underdog, but he knocked him out cold. Everything that he did was pretty clean. He knows exactly he’s doing, he understands the fight game, even though he has this little side of craziness, which is good, which is needed for the fight game.
Very great fighter, I do give him credit for that and I watched his fight against—who was that? The knockout, I think it was a five-second knockout, Ben Askren. It was like he was preparing this knee in the training camp, there was a video of him practicing that and he went in there and five seconds—It wasn’t even five seconds, I think it was three seconds, he did the same exact same thing to Ben Askren. Knocked him out cold. And I was there, I was ringside and man, that was crazy.”
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