By Hope Nda
Ultimate Fighting Championship winner, Cameroonian-born Francis Ngannou, was cheerfully welcomed by huge crowds in Buea during a tour on May 8, facilitated by “MTN Cameroon’s Unbeatable” Campaign to promote Cameroonian champions.
While addressing a vast number of students at the University of Buea’s Open Amphitheatre, the 1.93-metre-tall Ngannou announced he will be building a heavyweight training facility in Buea.
According to him, Buea, where he lived for three years, is the apt place to host his second heavyweight training centre after the first one in his Batie village in the West Region.
The centre, he said, is part of his drive, through his Ngannou Foundation, to empower more young people and get them to believe in themselves.
Before his official reception at the Southwest Governor’s Office, Ngannou had passed through the Buea Mile 17 Motor Park where he thrilled thousands of people who beheld the world champion for the first time.
He then headed to Southwest’s Administrative headquarters where Governor Bernard Okalia Bilai and his entourage welcomed him into the region. He was hailed for his bravery and for aptly representing Cameroon abroad.
At the University of Buea where Ngannou made his last stop, he was received by the institution’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Teaching, Prof. Nol Alembong, alongside hundreds of excited students at the Open Amphitheatre.
Prof Alembong, who represented the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Horace Manga, said the occasion was an opportunity to recognise merit and excellence.
“His achievement should be an inspiration to all the students, to all people of different careers, to say that wherever your station is; wherever your career in life is, you can make it nationally, you can make it internationally,” he said.
Ngannou’s tour in Cameroon, which has already taken him to the West and this time in the Southwest, is being sponsored by MTN Cameroon through the Unbeatable campaign.
“When MTN told me to be a part of the Unbeatable, I asked them what is Unbeatable? They gave me a very good definition but I will tell you in my way. Unbeatable is not someone who has never lost. We have all lost and that’s life. We are going to keep losing but I don’t consider it lost when we fall. We lose when we give up,” Ngannou told the hundreds of University students who turned out to receive him.
Asked by a Gender student, Vanessa Takang, on what his greatest aspiration is after winning the UFC title, Ngannou said: “My greatest aspiration is not just to let them (young people) believe in themselves, but my greatest aspiration is to stand as a role model. There’s no greatest aspiration as that: impacting people.”
“My biggest aspiration is to see another kid whom I’ve empowered, to tell him to go, it is possible. My greatest aspiration is way more beyond sports, it’s way more behind the belt; my greatest aspiration is you (youths),” he said, to the amazement of an already stunned population.
He also advised Cameroonian youths to be hardworking and to remain in the country instead of travelling abroad to find employment opportunities.
“The most important thing is not where you are, but what you are doing… I don’t think abroad is different from Cameroon. Wherever you are, you can make it. Many of those abroad have lost happiness; their happiness is gone,” he said.
After travelling to the US where he trained to become a world heavyweight champion, Ngannou says he prefers investing in Cameroon where there are still vast unexploited opportunities than abroad where the market is already saturated.
“There are more opportunities here than abroad. Believe in your dream, work and it will happen. No matter how long the night may be, the sun will rise,” he advised in response to a question raised by a Management student of the University of Buea.
The Man Francis Ngannou
Known for being the hardest recorded puncher in the heavyweight division of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Francis Zavier Ngannou was born on September 5, 1986, in Batie in the West region of Cameroon.
He grew up with his aunt after his parents divorced when he was just 6. He quickly embraced his fortune and began working at a sand quarry in Batie as early as 10 years old, due to lack of funds to pursue formal education.
Entangled with his father’s messed-up reputation as a street fighter, Ngannou decided to embrace boxing and, at age 22, he began training in boxing. He later decided to continue his boxing career in France but got delayed in Spain where he was jailed for two years for illegally crossing the border.
After his release, he was introduced to Fernand Lopez, his mentor and surveyor who gave him the chance of training at the MMA factory on a zero-cost basis.
Before winning the UFC title this year, Ngannou has appeared in 19 encounters where he won 16 and lost just 3.