There can be no denying Francis Ngannou appeared to be a shell of his former self when he faced Derrick Lewis at UFC 226. One person who wasn’t shy in putting forth his opinion was UFC president Dana White.
Speaking after the fight, an obviously frustrated White explained he felt that Ngannou had bought into his own hype and that his “ego was out of control”.
“He had a pretty quick rise here, and obviously the fight over Alistair Overeem catapulted him, everybody was talking about him,” White said. “I thought he was going to be the next guy. I think his ego ran away with him big-time. I can tell you that his ego absolutely did run away with him. And the minute that happens to you in the fight game, you see what happens. You start to fall apart. I had some personal encounters with him, as did other people in the organization, and this guy’s ego just was so out of control.”
Speaking to Ariel Helwani earlier today, Ngannou addressed Dana’s comments, explaining that he felt hurt by the accusations and doesn’t feel his ego is a problem.
“If someone has an issue with you and doesn’t tell you, how would you (react) – if you haven’t seen him or talked with (him)?” Ngannou said. “If you have an issue, tell me.
“We are all human. I don’t necessarily agree I have an ego. I’m never one to stay down when I fell down. You have to have that ego when you’re a fighter. You have to stand there and believe you’re No. 1. That’s ego. But not the one to hurt the people around me.”
This of course isn’t the first time White has erupted in the heat of the moment following a disappointing performance from one of his fighters. In the past, these rants have often been followed by some form of communication to help clear the air and keep things moving. Ngannou however, claims he hasn’t heard anything at all from the UFC boss.
“We haven’t spoke together,” Ngannou said. “I don’t know why. If he had something to say, he would tell me.”
The wrath of the UFC president is usually temporary and it will likely only take one or two glimpses of the old Francis Ngannou for his dire performance against Lewis to be forgotten. Speaking about who he would like to face next, Ngannou has a name in mind.
“I have no injuries,” Ngannou said. “This year I want to fight. Who I want to fight, exactly? I was supposed to fight Junior almost a year, 10 months ago. He just came back. Great win. So, maybe that one.”
The prospect of the 31-year-old facing Dos Santos is an interesting one. The two were set to fight prior to Junior’s brush with USADA late last year and it would be fair to say that things have changed substantially since then. When the fight was initially announced, many felt Dos Santos was being fed to the wolves, with Ngannou having built a nine fight win streak with his last three fights all being first round KO wins. The Cameroonian had an aura of invincibility which was only strengthened when he dramatically snatched the soul of Alistair Overeem at UFC 218.
Today however, Ngannou appears vulnerable, having been badly exposed by Stipe Miocic in his first attempt at capturing the heavyweight championship followed by an extremely lackluster performance in the UFC 226 co-main event against Lewis.
Time will tell if he is going to be able to find his mojo again but facing another aging veteran in Dos Santos may be just the fight he needs to be able to get that spark back.