White cites ego in the poor performance of Francis Ngannou
When Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega was canceled after the featherweight champ showed disturbing post-concussive symptoms, Francis Ngannou vs. Derrick Lewis was moved up to the co-main. Excitement was high.
"Probability of someone going to sleep? Very high. Very, very high," predicted the UFC via Twitter. "About as high as it can possibly get."
What followed was the most boring UFC heavyweight fight since Dan Severn vs. Ken Shamrock II at UFC 9 on May 17, 1996. And in defense of the W.O.A.T., punching had been declared illegal by a Detroit judge, and it went 24 minutes with two 3-minute overtimes.
Commentator Joe Rogan was honest in the opening round.
“If you told me Ngannou wasn’t going to throw a punch until three minutes into this fight, I’d have told you you were crazy,” said Rogan, as transcribed by Alex Blair for News.au. “This is so strange to watch … insane. We might be looking at the most boring heavyweight decision of all time.”
And Rogan was honest when Lewis was announced as the winner.
“That is by far the worst heavyweight fight I’ve ever seen,” said Rogan “I am baffled by that last fight. [Ngannou] doesn’t need a trainer, he needs a sports psychologist.”
At the UFC 226 post-fight press conference, UFC president Dana White pointedly blamed Ngannou.
“He had a pretty quick rise here, and obviously the fight over Alistair Overeem catapulted him, everybody was talking about him,” said White, as transcribed by Dave Doyle for MMA Fighting. “I thought he was going to be the next guy. I think his ego ran away with him big-time. I can tell you that his ego absolutely did run away with him. And the minute that happens to you in the fight game, you see what happens. You start to fall apart. I had some personal encounters with him, as did other people in the organization, and this guy’s ego just was so out of control.”
“Before the Stipe fight, he took off and went to France. Didn’t really even train for that fight. And you see the results. Well, then he comes back, and he did train, but I just — ego is what hurt Francis Ngannou.”
White also did not blame Lewis who suffers from debilitating back pain, and referenced it in his corner.
“He’s a fun guy, he’s funny, when he gets in there and throws, the fights are exciting,” said White. “But he always has problems with his back, and that is going to be a problem for him in there, you don’t want to go in there with a bad back with Cormier or any of these other heavyweights. But I like him and I don’t think his stock dropped at all.”