Reigning UFC Heavyweight champion, Cameroonian-born Francis Ngannou has been recognized at the 2021 Sports Humanitarian Awards that celebrate and honor athletes, teams, leagues and members of the sports industry for using sport to make a positive impact on society.
The mixed martial artist was named among Marvel’s Earth’s Mightiest athletes for his extraordinary abilities in the cage, alongside United States Women’s National Team soccer star and two-time World Cup Champion Julie Ertz and the Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell.
The award ceremony, 7th of its kind took place Monday July 12 in New York city, America.
Known for being the hardest recorded puncher in history, the 34-year old was honored because of the positive impact he has made out of his career.
Out of nothing, he became an outstanding international sports figure and thus the pride of a nation, a hope for many children due to hard work and perseverance.
“When I started, I had nothing. Nothing. I needed everything. But when you start [to earn money], you start collecting things: I want this, I want this, I want that. The purpose is not collecting things, though. The purpose is to do something great. Finish the dream you started…”
“I want to give some opportunity for children like me who dream of this sport and don’t have an opportunity like me. The last time I was in Cameroon, I brought a lot of materials for boxing and MMA to open a gym. Now I just bought a big space to start the gym, as well…”
“A lot of children now in Cameroon, because of me, they have a dream. They say, ‘I will be a champion in MMA. I will do boxing like Francis,’ because they saw me when I was young. I didn’t have anything. I didn’t have any opportunity. And today, they see me, and they are dreaming. They are thinking that something is possible. Even when they are so poor, something is possible in life. … It’s not easy. It’s so hard, but it’s possible.” The athlete once said.
He has opened a foundation named after him, The Francis Ngannou Foundation that currently runs the first MMA gym in Cameroon in his hometown of Batie in the West Region. The gym was opened in January 2019 and has since gone on to aid more than one hundred children.
The Foundation empowers these children through access to professional training, gyms and facilities.
Not too surprising he was recognized by the Sports Humanitarian Awards which honors incredible change makers that are using the power of sports to uplift communities.
An independent selection committee selects the Sports Humanitarian Award winners – athletes, teams, leagues and corporations who are taking on some of today’s most pressing needs. An ESPN committee selects the ENSPIRE Award winners – those in the sports sector taking risk and using innovation to help the disadvantaged.
ESPN grants $1 million to the charities of the nominees and winners. $12.4 million has been donated to the community on behalf of the Sports Humanitarian Awards since its inception seven years ago.