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Francis Ngannou says he was more than aware of the dangers posed by Anthony Joshua ahead of their boxing match in Saudi Arabia last week but has admitted to feeling like he was “falling asleep” backstage as he prepared for the two-time heavyweight champion. 

Ngannou has now completed what is likely the most difficult entry into professional boxing in the sport’s storied history by taking on two of the best heavyweight fighters of their generation in his first foray in the ring. While the first fight, a split decision loss to Tyson Fury last October, came close to being what would have been considered the biggest upset even seen in a boxing ring, his second was ruthlessly ended by Joshua, who knocked Ngannou unconscious towards the end of the second round after dropping him on two prior occasions in the brief contest.

In his first longform comments since the fight, ‘The Predator’ has admitted to feeling unusual backstage while warming up for the fight but made no excuses for the manner of his loss.

“We all knew it could happen,” Ngannou said responding questions on Instagram Live on Wednesday. “I wasn’t seeing it happen like that, but I always knew it could happen. At least, I was always prepared for that.”

He added: “I remember being in the locker [room] trying to warm up, and bro, it wasn’t going. I was falling asleep. I’m sweating, but I’m falling asleep.”

However, the Cameroonian explained that this feeling isn’t rare in combat sports — and he is sure that some of his own past opponents have dealt with similar issues.

“I assume that’s how some people I have fought, some people that I beat have felt before, but it was basically my first time to feel that,” he said. “That’s why I kind of took a couple days out, I took some time for me. I obviously had to reflect on everything that’s happened through the fight.

“Heads up to Anthony Joshua, to his team, that executed their plan properly,” he continued. “Hats off to my team, too, because they did a great job. I think I was the one that just didn’t execute the plan properly and maybe didn’t feel completely present. I was the only one that didn’t show up, let’s say that.

“Everybody showed up and did what should have been done. No blame to anybody. All the blame is just about me. That’s the game.”

But despite the setback in his second professional boxing match, Ngannou says that he is not dispirited.

“It’s part of what we do. We take challenges,” he said. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t work. But we are working on it.”