Ngannou, an ex-UFC champion, made his boxing debut against Fury in October, dropping the Briton but ultimately losing a controversial split decision in Riyadh.
Backstage at the press conference for Joshua vs Ngannou on Monday (15 January), the 37-year-old explained to The Independent and a select group of publications why he was not angered by his loss to Fury.
“I come from Africa,” Ngannou said. “I come from a continent with 1.3bn people. Sixty per cent of them are just youths, I think under 20 years old, and not many of them have the opportunity to accomplish their dream. I was living the dream.
“From where I started, from where I was born, to get there that night and accomplish that dream I’ve been carrying for 25 years, do you think I would let some f***ing judges take that pleasure away from me? No. I can only control what I can control.
“I was happy with my achievement, I was happy with standing up to my dream after all those years, all the obstacles I had, all the horrors on the way, and I find myself there on the night.”
Ngannou was hinting at a youth spent working in sand mines in Cameroon, an ardurous period in his life that preceded several failed attempts to make it to Europe. Eventually, he would succeed and begin training in mixed martial arts in France. His devastating punching power ultimately secured him the UFC title, which he relinquished in 2023, when he walked away from the promotion.
“The fight itself was just, how can I say... It was a bonus,” added Ngannou, who followed his UFC exit by signing with a rival company, the Professional Fighters League. “It was a win for me. How many boxers that you know that their first boxing [match] was against a champion? None. I was there, I was there.
“I’m living the dream. I can spend all day to find positive things, so I will not let any little thing take over my control, my pleasure. I was there fighting in front of my family. They were there ringside [in front of] the VIPs, it was them. My mum was there, my brothers, my sisters, they were there watching, they were on top of the world. When the camera turned around, they were the first people who were there. Why wouldn’t I be happy?”
Ngannou last fought in MMA in January 2022, when he retained the UFC heavyweight title against ex-teammate Ciryl Gane. He is contracted to return to MMA with the Professional Fighters League, but it is unclear when.
Joshua, 34, last fought in December, stopping Otto Wallin in five rounds in Riyadh. The Briton’s victory was his third in as many fights in 2023.
“AJ”, a former two-time heavyweight champion, was expected to fight in an IBF title eliminator next, before the surprise announcement of his bout with Ngannou.
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