UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou was warned by doctor’s and even his own head coach not to fight Ciryl Gane at UFC 270 this past weekend after he badly injured his knee only three weeks before the blockbuster showdown in Anaheim.
Ngannou had entered into the Octagon on Saturday night with knee braces on amid rumors that he’d suffered an injury in training, and sure enough, despite going on to beat Gane by decision, ‘The Predator’ confirmed afterwards that he’d suffered a grade 3 tear to his MCL in addition to also injuring his ACL and MPFL.
So Ngannou’s massive gamble to still compete paid off, but his head coach Erick Nicksick has since admitted that he tried to talk the star out of doing it.
“I was a nervous wreck,” Nicksick told MMA Junkie Radio. “I think a lot of the things that my head was telling me was to pull out of the fight, and I just didn’t like the way that the knee injury was and the situation that the opponent that we had with the particular injury that we had. Obviously we did want to get into some wrestling, but I didn’t know how we were going to be able to wrestle without having the cardio the last three-and-a-half weeks, as well as the stability of the knee, and I’ve just got to give all the credit to Francis. That guy’s will power, his mental capacity, what he wanted to do, he just unwavered the entire camp.
Things came to a head after they spoke with another doctor who advised Ngannou that he could be out of action for a long time or potentially even cause permanent damage if he fought.
“We had kind of that come-to-Jesus moment last Friday before we left,” Nicksick said. “We got word from a second opinion doctor out here in L.A. that he was adamant that Francis should pull out. He thought that he could ultimately lose a year-and-a-half to two years after a full knee reconstruction surgery if that leg would have gone wrong, something would have gone wrong. So we got that word last Friday. We had practice that day so we all met at the (UFC Performance Institute), and that’s kind of when I just said, ‘Dude, what are we doing here? I love you, bro. You’re my brother. But as your coach, I do have to tell you what I think is right, and this is what I feel is right in this situation.’
“‘But if you as the fighter say that you’re going to fight, I’m going to have your back 110 percent. But I can’t live with myself without telling you how I truly feel. This isn’t about anything other than your safety and your legacy, in my opinion.’ So we agreed upon what we were going to do was, we were going to come to California fight week, (and) we were going to meet with the doctor out here in L.A. The moment we landed, we went right to his office and basically waited outside and he came out and I could tell by his face, I’m like, ‘Oh, we’re fighting.’ Once we knew that, I didn’t bring his knee up once. I didn’t say anything about it. I didn’t want to talk about it anymore because that, as far as I was concerned, was behind us. We’re going to fight with what we’ve got.”