Francis Ngannou’s coach and general manager of Xtreme Couture, Eric Nicksick, says the UFC heavyweight contender is getting sharper and more refined as a striker as the pair continue to train together for the Cameroonian’s octagon return.
Nicksick has been spending plenty of one-on-one time with Ngannou (14-3 MMA, 9-2 UFC) in preparation for his upcoming fight with Jairzinho Rozenstruik, which is now set for May 9, and the pair have been able to conduct regular one-on-one sessions, with Ngannou hitting pads with his head coach.
Despite the unusual training circumstances in a rather empty gym, Nicksick has enjoyed this training camp with Ngannou, and has seen massive strides in his striking.
“I kind of liked it, to be honest with you,” Nicksick told MMA Junkie. “It’s a change of pace, and I like throwing wrenches into things and adapting to the way the environment is now. I think that implements what we are in the fight game – you have to adapt on the fly and you have to accept change, and I welcome that. Yes, it’s a challenge. We still have to go fight. But at the end of the day, me and him are committed to each other and we wanted to make sure we’re going to put out the best product.
“He’s super accurate. I think that’s one thing, too, that he’s been working on a lot with coach Dewey (Cooper) and myself. But he’s accurate and he’s pinpoint. He’s not overthrowing his punches maybe like he once was, sitting down on everything. His technique is impeccable, but he hits like a truck. (He’s) one of the hardest kickers and one of the hardest punchers I’ve ever held for, so my shoulders and my body is definitely going to be happy when this camp’s over.”
It’s a scary thing to think about, considering that Ngannou has shut out the lights of almost every opponent he’s faced and is coming off three straight first-round finishes over Curtis Blaydes and former heavyweight champions Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos.
His fight with Rozenstruik will most likely determine the next UFC heavyweight title challenger. Ngannou is looking to secure his second shot at gold. If Nicksick’s assessment is right, he’ll be much better prepared the second time around.