Souad Soulimani has been a member of L'Observatoire du Sport Business since 2016. Founder of MediaSpoliS specializing in media education and the production of content dedicated to female leadership, she is also president of Radio Déclic which gives a voice to residents of working-class neighborhoods on major societal issues.
The international elite invited and Africa worthily represented by a diligent Francis Ngannou, proud, solid and determined to break the chains of a life strewn with pitfalls but of which he takes full control. Nothing predisposed the native of Batié to become the media fighter that he is. Nothing except this inner rage and this strength coming from elsewhere which makes him constantly push the limits and defy the predictions of the experts of this world who always know everything but without having ever done anything. The autodidact who experienced poverty, came close to death and who locked himself in solitude did not give up. Only he knows what he went through and what he endured to be able to become a great among the greats in less than five years. The story of young Francis is that of an Africa in suffering and resilience but also and above all of an Africa which has rocked humanity and which needs to be considered with respect and dignity.
In recent years, Ngannou has become a world builder and a significant sporting actor, carrying with him the voice of African youth who are too little listened to. And yet, let it be said and heard: Africa has the youngest population in the world with more than 400 million Africans aged between 15 and 25. When the man nicknamed “The Predator” steps into the octagon or ring, this is the voice he carries. Precious and ambitious.
Francis Ngannou is now an athlete respected by the power he imposes but also and above all by the humility that accompanies him and his love for the African continent. Inside him hides a whole youth which must now show itself, a whole hymn to hope, to success and to the pride of being Cameroonian. This is not patriotism in Ngannou, it is humanism.
To be thirsty, hungry. To fear. Doubt, fall, start again. Learn, accept but do not give up. Try again and again. Continue swimming so as not to sink and then collapse. Start again, keep moving forward. Never back down because death awaits us, it pursues us and leaves us no respite other than the choice of survival.
This is where Francis' extraordinary destiny lies. And to go beyond the marketing codes and obviously the business scenarios put in place for the signing of this contract which announces a bonus of 5 to 10 million dollars for the former UFC champion, we must understand this: when death we borders, it no longer worries us. Nothing becomes insurmountable. And that evening, in the ring in Riyadh, the two men who face each other have the same relationship with death: they are not afraid of it.
They lived with her and spent a long time with her. She still comes back sometimes to knock on the door. And when we manage to escape it, nothing scares us anymore. Neither the knockout, nor the risks that accompany it. Francis Ngannou regularly remembers his journey and agrees to share it with a certain modesty so that the message gets across once and for all: you must realize your dreams and stop chasing behind. You have to move forward and believe in yourself. Believe in yourself ".
On the Riyadh ring, this evening of October 28, in reality, contrary to the great speeches of the same great experts who are the most talkative on social networks, the days after celebrations or defeats to enlighten us with all their light, that in which they only shone too little, Ngannou makes the opponent doubt and it is the entire assembly of stars who hold their breath like the legendary Mike Tyson, Ngannou's coach for this feat or even Ronaldo who came support the one he considers to be his friend sharing the same values.
When in the third round, Tyson Fury, then undefeated, fell heavily: it was a shock. The giant is hit, manhandled. We wonder how someone who makes a first fight in English can do it with so much calm and determination? To answer it, you have to know the sport, understand that in English, everything happens very quickly and one blow can change everything: the outcome of the fight as well as the life of the person who leads it.
To understand all this, you must have experience of the pain of hard sacrifices and hours of training. We have to come back a long way and it is precisely the multiple reigning world champion Tyson Fury whose belt is now with Usyk who responds at a press conference: “I take my hat off to Francis Ngannou for his story, where he comes from , the fight, the determination. Everything he did to get there. He was just a kid in Africa with a big dream. Everyone must have laughed at him in his country when he said he wanted to join Vegas and become UFC world champion. Everyone must have also made fun of him when he said he was going to fight Tyson Fury. I'm not making fun of myself because I know the hardships he went through.
If the question is not asked, Ngannou does not dwell on his fate. His destiny, he knows, is also that of so many Africans who have dreams in their eyes and who do not always know how to achieve them because there are so many obstacles. So they jump into the water. And they try. They seek the other shore, the one that ignores and despises them, however distant it may be, hoping that dreams like life are sweeter there. The beginning of a long journey that can change so many lives.
Today, Ngannou is a proven athlete, a liberated but committed man who speaks: “I have to earn respect. Respect is not given, it is earned. Everything I do every day is for one purpose: to make the impossible possible.” When we watch the fight, when we listen to his speech, we want to thank him. For what it is. And also, above all, not to forget what he was.
Looking more closely, he is today and in the history of his sport, namely MMA, the only one to have really thwarted the plans of the UFC, the most prestigious organization to continue to believe in him. where the brakes came back and his destiny had to remain in the hands of other men. This is the strength of Francis and that of exiles in general: freedom has a cost which they paid a high price and today it can undoubtedly be sold but cannot be resold and will never be bought.
In the ring on Saturday October 28, Francis entered as a free fighter and emerged ten rounds later as a worthy man, as an undisputed champion with whom we must now negotiate. Sport, business obviously but above all Africa at the heart and at the tips of the fists.