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After UFC Minneapolis, Francis Ngannou attributes renewed success to having fun again

After UFC Minneapolis, Francis Ngannou attributes renewed success to having fun again

MINNEAPOLIS – After back-to-back losses to Stipe Miocic and Derrick Lewis, some fans and analysts were uncertain if Francis Ngannou could bounce back. It turns out they may have been wrong.

Ngannou (14-3 MMA, 9-2 UFC) has three straight knockouts in a row in a combined fight time of just 2:22. On Saturday, he took out former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos at the 1:11 mark of the first round of the UFC on ESPN 3 main event in Minneapolis. It’s safe to say he’s back.

So what’s the secret to his recent success? Ngannou said he’s simply having fun again.

“The difference for the last three fights was maybe me having fun, finding myself,” Ngannou told MMA Junkie at the post-fight news conference at Target Center. “Because after my two losses, I was trying to figure out why I was doing this. Then I realized at the beginning (of my career), I didn’t even want to do MMA. I didn’t expect to do a professional career in MMA. But since I was having fun training, I was like, ‘OK, let’s do it – it’s fun.’ So that’s why I started.

“Then at some point, I kind of forgot that. So in the last three fights, I put that in the line and tried to focus on it – just to have fun.”

Ngannou took some criticism after his two losses, most notably from UFC president Dana White. He gassed out in his title fight against Miocic and put on a lackluster performance against Lewis, which is not what people have come to expect from the knockout artist.

Ngannou however, said he thinks it was more mental than a lack of effort.

“There’s nothing more frustrating and painful than getting out in the octagon and feel like you didn’t give it your all,” Ngannou said. “I think that’s the biggest loss ever.”

Since his most recent three fights all ended by first-round knockout, some wonder if there still are unanswered questions about Ngannou’s ground game.

But two of his three recent wins have come over standout wrestlers in Curtis Blaydes and Cain Velasquez, and Ngannou said he thinks that should prove enough.

“I don’t need to convince people, I just have to go out there and fight,” he sai. “How did I convince people that I beat Junior tonight? The only thing that convinced people was the result.”

For complete coverage of UFC on ESPN 3, check out the UFC Events section of the site.