Francis Ngannou’s coach reveals key injury discussions before UFC 270

Despite a debilitating knee injury, Francis Ngannou successfully defended his world heavyweight title at UFC 270.

The Cameroonian looked likely to lose his championship in the opening two rounds as he struggled to figure out Ciryl Gane‘s footwork. But he refused to give up.

He utilised his new and improved wrestling game to dominate the next three rounds and retain his belt.

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Read: Francis Ngannou next fight: Five potential opponents for ‘The Predator’

Not only did this performance highlight his versatility, but it also showcased his enormous heart. Despite carrying a severe torn MCL into the fight, he found a way to get the job done. However, with that comes speculation—fans question whether he could’ve set foot in the octagon at all if it was really that bad. But according to his trainer, Eric Nicksick, it was even worse than the public realised.

How bad was the injury Francis Ngannou fought with?

The renowned MMA coach appeared on Ariel Helwani’s ‘The MMA Hour‘ to discuss ‘The Predator’s’ MCL tear and partial ACL tear. He revealed the injury occurred during a sparring session with an up and coming young heavyweight. But rather than helping Ngannou with his preparations, the prospect did the exact opposite.

Nicksick revealed: “Francis was standing southpaw, kind of piecing him up a little bit, and I could tell the guy was getting anxious, so the guy shot a very, very low single.

“It wasn’t like him trying to be mean or anything like that. It was just him taking a shot. But it was really low and went onto Francis’ lead leg, which was his right leg being southpaw, and with the shin pads and the knee pad on, his knee kind of buckled funny.

“And he cringed and grabbed it, and then got up and kind of moved around a little bit and then actually finished up the rounds.”

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A concerned Nicksick insisted that his fighter went to the UFC Performance Institute to have his knee checked over.

“He had an MRI, and it was a full MCL tear, and then he had damage to the ACL as well. So once we heard that, in my mind, I was like, ‘Well, I don’t know how you’re going to be able to move around’.

“Myself, [coach] Dewey [Cooper], [manager] Marquel [Martin], we all suggested that he should [withdraw] — that we didn’t think it was the right move to take this fight.”

There’s no stopping The Predator

Nicksick then revealed that Ngannou went to the doctors’ surgery to have the knee looked at. Despite being told he should withdraw from his fight against Gane, the Cameroonian was determined to continue preparations.

His coach revealed: “I said, ‘Alright bro. I know we’re here, and I know why we’re here, and I believe in your heart, and I believe in your story. And this is going to make for a better story, to be honest with you. And I feel we can pull this out. So let’s go. Let’s do it’.

“And I never brought it up again. I never asked how he was doing. I didn’t look at it, I didn’t make it any other way, I didn’t even want it on his mind, I just wanted to focus on the fight.”

The 6ft 4in power punching monster was undeterred. He was desperate to defend his belt, and nothing was going to stop him. So, dismissing his concerns, Nicksick understood the task ahead and tailored the training camp accordingly.

The knee problems clearly affected the champion in the fight. The 35-year-old’s hampered movement prevented him from closing the range and firing in his monstrous right hand.

But this might actually help him in the long run. He was forced to search for another way to find the victory. He’s not going to land on everybody, so gaining the experience of exploring all facets of MMA will only improve his game for the future. However, the big point fans will take from this is that he is a beast. Injury or no injury, Francis Ngannou is always going for the win.

Featured Image Credit: Getty