At the 102 second mark of his fight at UFC 218, Francis Ngannou’s left fist poetically decimated the skull of Alistair Overeem. At that moment, as Overeem’s eyes rolled back into his head, dollar signs rolled into Dana White’s. UFC 218 was Ngannou’s coming out party. Remember the Austin 3:16 moment for Stone Cold in the WWE? This punch at UFC 218 was that for Ngannou. Memes were created, social media buzzed, and something viciously special was in the air. Only a magical crystal ball will tell us how Ngannou’s career will ultimately shake out. That said, on Saturday a marketable star was born and the UFC was brilliant in quickly strapping their rocket to him and booking Ngannou vs. UFC heavyweight champion, Stipe Miocic at UFC 220.
Ngannou is a walking billboard for what’s exciting about the UFC and MMA to casual viewers. He’s a massive man that carries a left hook that needs to be outlawed in fifty states like automatic weapons. Ngannou’s strength, quickness, and size has not been seen at any point throughout the history of the UFC. He’s a monster in every sense of the word and is accumulating a streak of knockouts that is looking more and more like Goldberg WCW victories in the late 90’s. That entire package is marketable in a big way. Fans will pay to watch this fighter fight because he’s an anomaly that they haven’t seen before. Based on Ngannou’s history, his fights are going to be exciting. The casual UFC viewer can’t and doesn’t want to understand a fight like Cejudo vs. Pettis. It’s easy to see and understand what Ngannou does inside the octagon and why it’s so special. Just like Mike Tyson was attractive to on the fence boxing fans, Ngannou can be attractive to on the fence MMA fans.
In addition to his marketability as a fighter, Ngannou has displayed a sense of style and confidence while inside the UFC media tornado. He has a unique personality with which he can regularly show his natural charm and at the same time sell his fights in a way that promotes his brand as shockingly dangerous. His post-UFC 218 comments are a perfect example of this skill. Quotes like, ““I know that 80 percent, I’m gonna knock you out.” “The 20 percent was just like random.” Or, “That is the past, man.” “We are talking about now. And now is me. I’m the present.” Ngannou even called UFC legend, Brock Lesnar out by saying, “I’d always like to see the match between me and Brock Lesnar.” “Two big dudes. I like that matchup. I’m excited for that kind of match as a fan. … I want to see that match.” “He’s big.” “Huge, as you say. But he’s not stronger than me. I’m stronger than him. I’m the best striker in the heavyweight division and the more powerful guy. I’m also a talented guy and I will deal with that very easy.” This sort of talk does not come naturally to everyone. Ngannou speaks in a way that conveys how dangerous he is inside the octagon while also highlighting how soft of a guy he is outside of it. It’s a fine line, but Ngannou is walking it well and is marketable because of it.
Ngannou’s coming out party on Saturday night puts more than the Miocic fight into focus. Remember, just this week he called out Brock Lesnar. I understand that Lesnar is retired, but Lesnar cares about money. A fight with Ngannou after Ngannou defeats Miocic would mean big dollars and is something that Brock would surely come out of retirement for. Plus, by the time the Stipe/Ngannou fight is in the rearview mirror, Lesnar will be relieved of his one year ban for testing positive for PED’s. Doing business with Brock Lesnar can put you into a different stratosphere of popularity if you’re ready. Lesnar is a pop culture phenomenon and by fighting him Ngannou can become one himself. After Saturday night, he’s more than ready.
The big fight though is his upcoming UFC 220 fight against Stipe Miocic. The fight will be for the heavyweight title and it’s the perfect fight for the UFC to capitalize on at this time. The heavyweight division can be sluggish at times due to the fact that contenders come and go and not all challengers are seen as true stars. Ngannou vs. Miocic changes that perception. Right now, both guys are viewed as megastars and because of that, this fight will be perceived as a mega fight. Ngannou’s knockout punch made its rounds on social media in tremendous fashion with the immediate next thought being, “I wonder if he can beat Stipe with that punch?” The world wants to see this and we’re only a little over a month away.
The stars aligned for the UFC on Saturday night. Had Overeem beat Ngannou, another tedious rematch between him and Stipe would be in the cards. As a business, the UFC didn’t want that outcome. Now there is something big for them to sink their teeth into. Big checks with lots of zeros. The bottom line is there are loads and loads of cash to be made on the shoulders Francis Ngannou due to his performance at UFC 218. Now is the time for the UFC to light his fuse and they did that by booking him and Stipe in such a short amount of time. 2017 has been the year of finding stars for Dana White. He can print money with Ngannou. As Bruce Buffer says, “It’s Time.” 3, 2, 1 – blast off.
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