In 2016, when Francis Ngannou was starting to make waves in the UFC, he talked about wanting to help children in his native country of Cameroon by giving them something to dream about (courtesy of MMA Junkie):
“I want to give some opportunity for children like me who dream of this sport and don’t have an opportunity like me,” Ngannou said. “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,” he added. “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.”
Fast forward to 2019 and that dream has come to fruition. In a recent Instagram post, “The Predator” shared images of the recently opened gym, including an MMA fenced area, a boxing ring and heavy bags.
The news of Ngannou’s new gym comes only weeks away from his return to the Octagon where he will face former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez who is fighting for the first time since July 2016, when he knocked out Travis Browne in the opening round of their bout at UFC 200.
“The Predator” is coming off a huge TKO victory over Curtis Blaydes back in November at UFC Fight Night 141, getting himself back on track after consecutive losses to Stipe Miocic and Derrick Lewis.
UFC on ESPN 1 takes place Feb. 17 at the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. It will be headlined by the heavyweight tilt between Velasquez and Ngannou, with lightweights Paul Felder and James Vick slated to meet in the co-main event.