Africa and the world at large are filled with amazing and awe-inspiring stories of those who came to the top of their games by conquering their fears and the various limitations that life, people or the system placed in their paths. Against all odds, they took steps upon steps that got them closer daily to the objects of their hearts. Such stories are worth telling a thousand times and the principles of success found in their stories that one can glean from them are worthy of sharing too.
Of such amazing awe-inspiring stories is the story of the man named Francis Ngannou nicknamed “The Predator”. Here is a summary of his story published on Wikipedia.com
Francis Zavier Ngannou (born 5 September 1986) is a Cameroonian-French professional mixed martial artist and professional boxer who is currently signed to the Professional Fighters League (PFL). He also competed in the Heavyweight division in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), where he was the reigning UFC Heavyweight Champion at the time of his departure from the promotion.
Early life and education
Ngannou was born and raised in the village of Batié, Cameroon. He lived in poverty and had little formal education growing up. Ngannou’s parents divorced when he was six years old, and he was sent to live with his aunt. At 10 years old, Ngannou started working in a sand quarry in Batié because of a lack of funds. As a youngster, he was approached by several gangs in his village to join them. However, Ngannou refused and instead decided to use his father’s negative reputation as a street fighter as motivation to do something positive and pursue boxing.
At age 22, Ngannou began training in boxing, despite the initial reluctance of his family. After training for a year, Ngannou stopped training due to an illness. He did various odd jobs to make ends meet, until age 26 when he decided to head to Paris, France, to pursue professional boxing. However, upon reaching Europe, he was jailed for two months in Spain for illegally crossing the border. After Ngannou reached Paris, he had no money, no friends, and no place to live. After living homeless on the streets of Paris, he met Francis Carmont who introduced him to Fernand Lopez and the MMA factory. Being a fan of Mike Tyson, Ngannou was originally interested in learning how to box but Lopez saw his potential in MMA and convinced him to try MMA instead. Lopez gave Ngannou some MMA gear and allowed him to train and sleep at the gym for no cost thus starting Ngannou’s MMA career.
Reflecting on his journey across continents and his decision to become an MMA fighter, Ngannou said:
When I started, I had nothing. Nothing. I needed everything. But when you start [to earn money], you starting collecting things: I want this, I want this, I want that. The purpose is not collecting things, though. The purpose is to do something great. Finish the dream you started.
I want to help my family, first, of course, but then I want to give opportunity to children in my country like me who have a dream to become a doctor or something. If I reach my dream, it will give me the opportunity to help those in my country who have their own dreams and nothing else to fulfill them.
I want to give some opportunity for children like me who dream of this sport and don’t have an opportunity like me. The last time I was in Cameroon, I brought a lot of materials for boxing and MMA to open a gym. Now I just bought a big space to start the gym, as well.
A lot of children now in Cameroon, because of me, they have a dream. They say, ‘I will be a champion in MMA. I will do boxing like Francis,’ because they saw me when I was young. I didn’t have anything. I didn’t have any opportunity. And today, they see me, and they are dreaming. They are thinking that something is possible. Even when they are so poor, something is possible in life. … It’s not easy. It’s so hard, but it’s possible.
Upcoming fight with Tyson Fury
Recently, there’s been a lot of buzz on the internet as Ngannou and Fury are set to face each other in a boxing match on Oct. 28 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The bout will be the biggest payday of Ngannou’s career and many fans view the matchup as simply a cash grab from the former UFC heavyweight champion. As would be expected, most of the buzzes are negatively targeted at Ngannou. However, in his usual way of responding to critics, Francis Ngannou responds to those who are already predicting his defeat against Tyson Fury:
”From the start, I don’t remember a day when I took an initiative and then people said: ‘ah Francis, he’s going to be a hit’ when I said I’m going to do boxing, I was at Cameroon, people said: ‘oh yes, but you have to forget’. I proved that I could do MMA. I became Champion. When I said I’m going to take my freedom, I don’t like the way I’m treated, I was told: ‘ah yes, but you can’t fight the system’. Looks like I have a knack for proving people wrong.
And besides, what’s the worst? Today, I’m not afraid of falling, I’m not afraid of losing. I’m more afraid of not trying, I’m afraid of not giving it my all, I’m afraid of holding myself back because of this fear of failure. Failure is not not succeeding, failure is not undertaking, it is not going to pursue your dream.”
This latest response and positive mindset from Francis Ngannou to his critics and naysayers is actually what inspired this article. And I believe there are a few principles of success that one can pull out of his response.
Now, I know these “principles” are not new, but to see them oozing out of the life of a man whose background one would want to write off is nothing but inspirational.
- Push aside the clouds of your past: Your past and your background are not as important as what lies ahead of you if you can see it. Everyone has a past and a background; some beautiful and some not so beautiful or even very ugly. But just like the sun shines in the morning after the background of nighttime, so are our lives. We just have to do what the sun does, push aside the clouds of darkness and spread our lights as far as we possibly can.
- Never take no for an answer: There are times when the answer no is good to create room for making better deals, but the overall approach to life should be that everything is possible. Not taking “No” for an answer in this sense is the ability to see the opportunity in every situation and being able to tell yourself that you are possible and that your dreams and aspirations can be achieved irrespective of what anyone or the system says. Dreams don’t come to pass on the “bed” from where it was given, through hard work and diligence, dreams come to pass. In our world, the reality is that every excuse we give for doing or not doing something is valid until we realize that the time we spend making those excuses is actually a countdown on our life’s clock.
- Prove them wrong: Have a knack for proving nay-sayers wrong by doing what you believe is right and useful for your elevation. In fact, sometimes the person you will need to prove wrong might just be yourself. It’s not all the time that what holds us back is from the outside, what holds us back mostly are from the inside. The way we think, our ideology about life, the way we perceive life and the world in general. Meaning that, what we need to change most times are the things in us and who we need to prove wrong sometimes, is us. So go ahead, prove the naysayers wrong by doing what is required for your success and while doing that, also prove your excuses wrong.
- Be more afraid of not trying than be afraid of failing: This is definitely my favourite among these principles. Fear of failing is not just a negative energy that sucks life and abilities from our souls, it is an evil “treadmill” that keeps us running in one place while sweating so much that we think we are moving forward. You know what I mean. A thousand ideas come into my head every day and because I genuinely love to try out new things, I get frustrated when I am not able to do those things either because I have to use my time for other things that are already on the ground or I do not have the needed resources to get the new ideas done. But in any case, be more afraid of not trying than be afraid of failure. Failure is just another way of saying “Now I have learned what works and what doesn’t work and why”. And trying is, “I can see the either way this new thing can go, but I go for it anyway”.
- Kick fear in the face and go after your dream: This one does not need too much explanation. Individually, we all know what we wake up in the morning afraid of in our lives. And they are mostly the very same things we were afraid of when we went to bed the previous night. But our lives should not be slaves to fear but masters of our destinies. So, kick that fear in the face by doing or going for that very thing you are afraid of. How bad can it be really?
- It’s not always about winning but about doing your best: This is also a favourite one. Winning or being the winner in a game is good and should be pursued but at the same time, life is not always about winning. Here is what I mean. Somehow, we have created a society that believes in this self-centred and greedy approach to success which makes people think that someone else’s success is their own failure. Or that for them to win someone else must lose what they have. That’s not right. Is for those who think his world is a jungle. We have to redefine what winning means. Sometimes winning does not mean you being the one who carries the golden trophy, it may just mean you being the one who polished the trophy till it shines enough to be in the hands of another worthy winner. So winning is not always about not losing but about you deafening that thing that holds you back from trying or doing your best.
- Always remember where you came from: If there is someone who has “mastered” the art of remembering home even in the midst of huge world success, it is Francis Ngannou. It seems that every time he wins any match or gets a new belt, he goes home to Cameroon to celebrate with his family, visits the sand mines where he worked while growing up and has real interactions with young people in the immediate environment of his hometown. I remember him saying something in one of his interviews, I think it was on Mike Tyson’s podcast or so. He said, when you are home, you are just a brother to your family and not the world champion that the world knows. I paraphrased but you get the point. I love that thought and attitude of gratitude for where he came from. Also, I recently saw a photo of him cooking in the kitchen with his mum in his village. By the look of the photo, the kitchen is not the one you would say a world champion should even enter not to talk of sitting in and cooking with his mum. But that is what it means to remember home from where your life was given a spark for your journey. And by the way, he recently launched a sports centre in his hometown where young people who are interested in martial arts can train.
In conclusion, I sincerely wish the man Francis Ngannou a good fight with Tyson Fury come October 28th. Both of them have earned their places as world champions and both deserve the win. And like the man himself said “…what’s the worst?” that can happen? The fear of not trying is worse than the fear of failure.
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Samuel Phillips is a writer, graphic designer, photographer, songwriter, singer and a lover of God. As an Afrikan content creator, he is passionate about creating a better image and positive narrative about Afrika and Afrikans. He is a true Afrikan who believes that the true potential of Afrika and Afrikans can manifest through God and accurate collaborations between Afrikans. Afrika is the land of kings, emperors, original wisdom, ancient civilizations, great men and women and not some road-side-aid-begging poor third world continent that the world finds joy in undermining.