Francis Ngannou’s back was against the wall going into Ciryl Gane fight: ‘I thought man, we’re in trouble’


Legendary coach Dewey Cooper revealed that confidence was at an all-time low in the weeks leading up to Francis Ngannou’s UFC heavyweight title defense against Ciryl Gane last year.

‘The Predator’ has dominated headlines over the last few weeks following the announcement that he had signed on the dotted line with the Professional Fighters League. Ngannou revealed details of his ground-breaking contract which will guarantee himself and his future opponents a multi-million dollar payday along with a slew of other perks that will serve to benefit the mixed martial arts community as a whole. Needless to say, things are going great for the former heavyweight champion. But if you asked members of his team how things were looking just before his first and only title defense against Ciryl Gane, the situation would have seemed undeniably dire.

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Speaking with John Morgan of MMA Underground, Dewey Cooper revealed that everything was going according to plan until Francis Ngannou blew out his knee three weeks before his scheduled scrap at UFC 270. With no contract in place, a brutal injury, and a high-stakes matchup on the horizon, Cooper admitted that everyone on the team was bearing down for the absolute worst.

Dewey Cooper Says Francis Ngannou Was Ready to Accept the Consequences of Losing to Ciryl Gane

“There’s a certain profoundness in having the courage to step off that cliff. Because you could die from that fall, or you could be lifted to astronomical levels,” Cooper said. “Going into that Ciryl Gane fight, Francis looked spectacular in the gym, I’ve talked about it many times. I was like, Francis is gonna kill someone – he destroys his knee three weeks out.

“Everyone, myself, coach Eric, Marquel, everyone, was saying man, this is your last fight, you refused to sign your restructured new contract, you are crazy to take this fight. If you lose you’re gonna get banished and you’re gonna get lowballed. Francis knew the repercussions of losing. In all actuality, with the injury he had, success went from 100% to, I don’t wanna say the percentage, but it wasn’t very high!

“I believed in him but I thought man, we’re in trouble,” Cooper admitted. “Anyway, for him to still get a multimillion-dollar offer a few days before the fight, which most people would’ve signed right there… For Francis not to sign, take that fight and win it the way he won it, and to then take a year off because of the championship clause, it’s crazy. But guess what? All of his thoughts on what he wanted were bigger than the money, man” (h/t

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Francis Ngannou is expected to make his Smart Cage debut in 2024. Before then, ‘The Predator’ has his sights set on trying his hand at the sweet science before 2023 comes to a close. When, where and against who is yet to be determined, but Ngannou insists that a fight inside the squared circle will happen whether it be against a big name like Tyson Fury or a tune-up fight ahead of his return to MMA.