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- Francis Ngannou says his unprecedented knockout power is a result of child labor in Cameroon.
- Ngannou grew up in poverty in Batie, a small town in west Africa. He worked as early as 10 years old, in sand mines.
- He is also from a family of strong men. His father was an infamous streetfighter. This, he believes, is why he is the fighter that he is today.
- Ngannou, according to the UFC Performance Institute, is the most powerful puncher in UFC history.
- And on Saturday in his fight against Junior dos Santos, Ngannou is looking to give another knockout demonstration.
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Francis Ngannou’s thumping ascent to the highest echelons of mixed martial arts is tinged with a bittersweet background.
The UFC recruited Ngannou in 2015 after noticing a 5-1 up-and-comer competing mostly in Europe. His first three fights for the UFC all ended in knockouts before a kimura lock in 2016. After that submission victory, Ngannou went back to doing what he does best — finishing opponents with punches.
His TV-friendly fighting style won him fans, and earned praise from the UFC commentator and podcaster Joe Rogan who called Ngannou an "absolutely brutal knockout artist." Rogan added: "He has excellent technique, his striking is clean … everything is done in a beautiful, violent manner."
The UFC became so intrigued by the way he was knocking out ranked fighters and former champions, it analyzed his power. Duncan French, VP of Performance at the UFC Performance Institute, measured the force behind the heavyweight’s overhand right, which came in at 129,161 units — a UFC record.
Business Insider asked Ngannou where this power came from, whether it was born or through a result of drills in the gym. He told us it was a result of child labor in Cameroon. "I had to work very hard when I was a child, about 10 years old," he said.
Ngannou grew up in poverty in the small Cameroonian town of Batie, in west Africa. Long before he was even a teenager, an age where many children in Europe or America would play video games, Ngannou worked — shovelling sand at a mine. "I had to work," he said. This made him "very strong, big."
He told Business Insider: "I think it might have had some say in my strength. My entire life, everything I did to survive back then in Cameroon … it was a physical world. To survive, I had to be powerful. It’s something that’s just natural."
Ngannou is also from a family of strong men. Power was something he always had, even before he began training in combat sports. "In my family, we have a reputation of power and of being powerful people. My dad was very strong. My brother strong, like me. We are very strong."
He said his dad wasn’t as big as he is now — a 6-foot-5, 260-pound heavyweight — but he did have a reputation as a streetfighter. "We’re just a family of strong people but, in general, Cameroon … the people are strong."
In 16 professional fights, Ngannou has not once won a fight by decision. His wins have been knockouts or submission. Though he has lost thrice, he has never been defeated by a knockout or submission, only a decision.
In his UFC on ESPN3 fight Saturday, Ngannou has an extraordinary reach advantage, and could add another knockout to his win column against the Brazilian fighter Junior dos Santos.
Ngannou told Business Insider that even with his reputation as the hardest-hitting athlete in UFC history, he still continues to heighten his strength by "training, working hard, working on endurance, working on different muscles, and building strength."
Considering his history, it would perhaps be unwise to count him out in the dos Santos bout as he looks to give another knockout deomonstration.
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