Happy Monday everyone! I hope you guys are ready to have a great week! We have some awesome workouts coming up in the gym and we are starting a brand new month. Each new month comes with it the renewed opportunity to set some awesome PR’s, work hard, and find a spot on the board for our committed club!
For today’s Motivation Monday I would like to share with you the story of Francis Ngannou. Francis is the current UFC Heavyweight Champion after winning the belt in an amazing fight against the legendary Stipe Miocic in March of 2021. Now that you know where Ngannou has ended up, let’s go to the beginning of his story, it’s sure to amaze you.
Francis Ngannou was born in Batie Cameroon in September of 1986. Cameroon is an extremely poor country on the West Coast of Africa. It borders Chad, Niger, Nigeria, and the Congo. This region is a thoroughfare of most of the world’s illicit trade markets and is home to almost unrelenting violence and civil unrest. Cameroon’s GDP per capita is $1,499 USD which makes it one of the poorest countries in the world (for reference the US GDP per capita is $63,543). To help his family Francis started working in a sand quarry at the age of 10, yes ten years old. Working in the quarry was incredibly demanding labor for adults, not to mention a ten year old child. Francis knew that his current situation was not going to present him with many opportunities in life but he had big dreams to be a boxer. In fact if you listen to Joe Rogan’s podcast with Francis he doesn’t even describe his dreams as “dreams”. To Rogan’s disbelief he repeatedly says that there was never a doubt in his mind that he was going to be a champion boxer (knowing the end of his story, he was a little of with boxing, but he was close).
After working at the quarry for years Francis decided to take control of his destiny and moved to the city to pursue boxing at the age of 22. At the behest of his family, he trained in the city for four years without making much progress. At 26 years old Francis risked everything and decided to make the extremely dangerous migrant journey to Europe where he planned to pursue his fighting career. This is where his story gets really crazy.
Francis used all of the money he saved to pay his way with a human trafficking group to bring him over 2,000 miles across the Sahara desert into Morocco. Along his journey he endured incredibly arduous conditions riding in the back of trucks for days on end with little to no water, food, or opportunities to get out. Many of the people he was traveling with became sick and even died. His plan from Morocco was to cross the Strait of Gibraltar into Spain. Obviously this is very illegal and the Spanish government heavily patrols this area to discourage illegal immigration. Francis made many attempts to cross the Strait on home made life rafts and was caught multiple times. As punishment for being caught the Moroccan government would drive the refugees hundreds of miles back into the Sahara desert and just leave them there. Francis would WALK back to the coast each time and attempt his crossing again. Eventually he became the “captain” of one of these voyages and successfully got his boat into Spain. You may be thinking, “Nice! He made it!”, nope. Upon arriving in Spain, Francis was arrested and spent several months in a detention facility under horrible conditions until he was finally released and somehow allowed to stay in the country. Over time he made his way to Paris and found a boxing gym in a refugee community that agreed to train him for free. Francis fought in a few amateur bouts until he was recognized for his strength and raw talent and offered a professional contract. Since then, he has climbed to the top of the ladder in the UFC heavyweight division and has a record of 16-3 with 12 of his wins being knockouts.
I can not begin to do justice to his story in this short blog post. The hardships Francis went through are almost beyond imagination, his journey from Cameroon to France took him over TWO years! The most inspiring part of his story is hearing him retell it in the light of unwavering confidence that he kept the entire journey, he never once doubted his future as a champion. After hearing his story, what he has been through, and the outlook he has on life I feel bad for any opponent he has faced, or will face, in the octagon. If you have some time go listen to the full podcast he did with Joe Rogan on Spotify, it is the Joe Rogan Experience, MMA Show, Episode 99. For just a taste of what the whole episode is like check out this video:
We can all draw on Francis’ example when it comes to believing in our futures and enduring hard times to achieve our goals. Obviously his is an extreme example but it goes to show you the power of self-belief. Whatever it is, your dream can be accomplished if you decide to have unwavering belief in yourself. Of course, anything worth accomplishing is never going to be easy. It will be hard and you will have to go through some hard times to get there but keep the faith and never stop pushing forward. We are lucky enough to surround ourselves with a community of people here at True Spirit who believe in each other and are always supportive. Draw on it and use our belief in you to push yourself even further forward. Remember, in Crossfit and in life, never stop moving!
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