francis ngannou tyson fury on red grid background

This Trait Might Be Ngannou’s Secret to KO’ing Tyson Fury

Spoiler: It has nothing to do with fighting technique or strategy.

On Saturday, October 28, former MMA Heavyweight Champion Francis Ngannou’s name will again be up in lights as the Cameroonian mixed martial artist enters the ring for the first professional boxing match of his career against Tyson Fury, whose record to date is a near-perfect 34 bouts undefeated. The narrative pre-fight is a whirlwind of can Ngannou out-box a boxer?, but according to at least one person familiar with Ngannou, what separates The Predator from the pack isn’t fighting acumen, stamina, standing reach, or any other measurable trait—it’s willpower. 

Polina Pompliano, author of Hidden Genius: The Secret Ways of Thinking That Power the World’s Most Successful People would know. Recounting a 2022 interview she conducted with Ngannou, Pompliano explained it like this to Hone Health CEO Saad Alam on the Hone In podcast. 

Can you reason your way through challenges? Polina weighs in on the Hone In podcast.

“He was like, ‘I’m not scared to bet on myself. I see so many talented people who are scared to bet on themselves and they’re scared to lose everything and start over. I don’t have that. I can start over and over and over and over. I know I have the skills that nobody can take away from me. Nobody can take away the resilience and that grit to make it.’” 

Pompliano’s profession is untangling how the extremely successful think, so it’s no surprise that she immediately latched onto Ngannou’s unique ability to persevere through extreme circumstances.

“He basically made it from Cameroon to Niger, from Niger to Nigeria, from Nigeria to Algeria, from Algeria to Morocco, and then from Morocco to Spain all in hopes of becoming a professional boxer,” she says.

francis ngannou training boxing
Despite growing up idolizing boxer Mike Tyson, Ngannou has never boxed in an official, competitive bout. His fight against Fury will be his first.

The way he tells it, Ngannou’s story is harrowing, to say the least. After traveling across central Africa, through the Sahara Desert, and into Spain he was rebuffed by Spanish officials 16 separate times—being imprisoned more than once. After 16 attempts he successfully earned asylum in the country before arriving in Paris, France where he lived homeless until he met local Parisian mixed martial artists Francis Carmont and Fernand Lopez, who introduced him to their MMA training gym, where he was allowed to live and train. By the time Ngannou had reached the US and the UFC, he was already the competition reigning heavyweight champion.

This, according to Ngannou, was by design. According to Pompliano, Ngannou sees the content of his journey as more valuable than the destination. Paraphrasing Ngannou, Pompliano highlights this often. 

“I would still come to the US but maybe I would work as a security guard or something, right?” she recalls. “But because of the path he took, he was able to come to the US as the MMA heavyweight champion.”

Ngannou takes on undefeated World Boxing Council Heavyweight Champion Tyson Fury in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Saturday, October 28th. It will be Ngannou’s first-ever official boxing match. Victory or defeat, it’s clear Ngannou has already won—though he probably sees it as just another mountain to climb.