After competing against doctor’s orders on Saturday, UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou is likely headed for surgery.
When Francis Ngannou (17-3-0 12-2-0 UFC) entered the Octagon for his UFC 270 main event, the champ came out with sleeves on both knees, immediately leading to speculation that ‘The Predator’ may be walking into the bout with an injury. Ngannou confirmed the injury in his post-fight interview in the cage but went into further detail during the post-fight press conference.
"It was pretty bad," Ngannou said about his knee at the UFC 270 post-fight press conference. "I had a grade 3 MCL [tear], I have a damaged ACL. That was 25 days ago. I think so, [I’ll need surgery]."
“I Believe In Myself"
Even though he was suffering from a serious injury, Ngannou never considered withdrawing from the contest.
"My team was by my side regardless of whatever I decided to do, that’s what they said," Ngannou told MMA Fighting. “But the doctor said he wouldn’t recommend me [to fight] because I could have irreversible damage if I got kicked on that knee. That’s why I couldn’t switch my stance.
"I could have withdrawn from this fight, but then get in another fight and get [injured] even worse. We are doing this sport, it’s very dangerous, you can hurt yourself all the time. So if you feel like there’s a chance you can do it, you have to do it. I believe in myself. I’ve been through a lot of stuff in my life. That must be a dumb decision, but I didn’t want to withdraw from this fight. I was very confident about my skills to win this fight."
Turning The Tide
Ngannou struggled to make contact with Gane through the first two rounds of their five round affair. Looking for an answer, Ngannou leaned on the support of his corner and turned the tide in the third round with a thunderous slam that brought Gane to the canvas.
"Something came to my mind," Ngannou said. "I remembered all the support I’ve been receiving from my country, and I’m like, ‘I’m not letting them down.’ Then my coaches, they were there motivating me, telling me and then we went to the third round, and I got this takedown and then at the end of the third round, I kind of saw him desperate.
"At that moment, I knew he was going to lose this fight. He was losing the fight. I could tell that he wasn’t himself anymore."
Ngannou fought conservatively on the feet to better protect his knee and admitted that the potential damage from a slip or a kick was an eerie thought. Despite the fear of permanent injury, Ngannou never once considered throwing in the towel.
"I was very [unstable] trying to hold position, [I couldn’t] move too much," Ngannou said. "I didn’t want to slip or something. Just the idea of slipping or getting kicked on that knee was so scary. Basically, I saw the doctor on Tuesday to clear me and he wasn’t very optimistic about it but I still decided to move on. I don’t care about how [my knee] feels. I know what I was putting myself into and if I needed to leave that leg in the octagon to get the win, I would have done it."
Depending on the severity of the damage and if surgery is required to repair the MCL and ALC, Ngannou could be on the shelf for as many as 9-12 months.
Prior to UFC 270, Ngannou’s contract dispute with the UFC was highly publicized. We know that his fight on Saturday was the last of his contract, but Ngannou’s contract likely includes a champions clause. The details of that clause have been the topic of speculation for months, but Dana White has said that with a win at UFC 270, Ngannou would be under contract for one more bout.
‘The Predator’ claims that he has the option to sit out for one year to complete his contract should the UFC not budge on the terms of a new agreement.
With Ngannou looking down the barrel of a lengthy layoff, it would present the UFC with an opportunity to remove the title from the champion and crown a new heavyweight king until Ngannou’s injury and contract concerns are resolved.
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