Just In Francis Ngannou’s secret to his rebound? Rediscovering the fun of MMA MMA Life

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BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Francis Ngannou appears to have learned all the right lessons from his losses to Stipe Miocic and Derrick Lewis.

Ngannou appeared to be on the brink of superstardom heading into his shot at then-heavyweight champion Miocic at UFC 220. But Ngannou had a poor performance, then a worse one against Lewis.

But when everything seemed to be crashing all around him, Ngannou took a deep breath and realized he’s still new to the game, and he’s still got plenty of time to grow.

“There was a lot of things that I learned like basically for the Stipe fight,” Ngannou said at Wednesday’s UFC on ESPN 3 open workouts. “I learned how to pick a fight, how to put things together, and also where to put myself after the fight, how to handle that, you know?”

“I didn’t have nothing in my life to get me prepared for this place, and then I had to pick things up all at once, you know?” Ngannou later added. “So sometimes you have to stop something, you need to have some unfortunate result like that to understand, to learn, to begin. All these guys around here, they’ve been around a very long time to have an athletic life. Most of them grow up in that, so they’re more aware of things than I am.”

Ngannou (13-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC) also had another realization: He needed to learn to enjoy himself all over again. His life took off faster than he could have imagined as he went from Cameroon to Paris to Las Vegas to UFC stardom, and as the rocket ship took off, he forgot how to appreciate the process.

“I get into MMA because it was fun, it was fun when I had my first MMA training and want to do those things,” Ngannou said. “So then, at some point, I feel like I lose thing, I lose the track, and it didn’t work, but I invest too much in it personally instead of going to have fun. It became too serious, and I developed fear in me, a fear to lose.”

Once Ngannou rediscovered the enjoyment, his mojo came back around, too. And now, after a pair of first-round knockout wins, he’s got a fight Saturday night with Junior Dos Santos, one which could get him back to where he was less than two years ago.

And should he defeat Dos Santos (21-5 MMA, 15-4 UFC) and get back there, this time he’ll be better prepared to handle whatever comes his way.

“I’m very young in the sport, I’m on my prime age, and I still have many years ahead of me to be learned,” Ngannou said. “Yes, I learn from the past, I move forward, but the the main thing that I have to learn is just to do this for the fun, enjoy the process, because you never know what’s going to happen.”

UFC on ESPN 3 takes place at Target Center in Minneapolis. The card airs on ESPN.

For more on UFC on ESPN 3, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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