The UFC heavyweight title is scheduled to be unified at UFC 270 on January 22. The only reason it requires unification is because the UFC put an interim belt on Ciryl Gane to pressure the previously undisputed champion Francis Ngannou to get back into their cage.
With Ngannou agreeing to meet Gane, over risk being stripped of the belt he won from Stipe Miocic early this year, dramatic story-lines featuring both men have been easy to come by. The pair used to train together at Paris’ MMA Factory, before Ngannou left citing frustration with head coach Fernand Lopez.
Both Ngannou and Gane have tried to downplay that narrative. However, Ngannou’s recent backstage snub of Gane added yet another angle to the perceived animosity between the two.
Gane recently spoke to BT Sport about his forthcoming opponent and the odds that he—an MMA neophyte—might walk out of UFC 270 as the sport’s heavyweight king.
“I just started the sport, so imagine, tomorrow I’m going to win against Francis Ngannou, I’m going to be in the top, the baddest man in this world after just three years in MMA,” said Gane (ht MMA Fighting). “That’s really crazy. That’s wonderful. And yes, after that, if I win, this is going to mean something for real for me. Because after every fight, maybe you can see, I’m not really enjoying it when I win. I don’t know why exactly, I’m not excited about that. But if I win against Francis, I’m going to be happy. I’m going to be happy for real.”
When asked for a technical analysis of Ngannou, Gane said that he believes ‘The Predator’ has improved a lot in the past three years.
“He’s really well-rounded now, and I think it’s going to be more like that, because he knows I can manage the power. I think he knows I can manage the power. So maybe he should be a smart fighter (when we fight)....
“I think it’s gonna be like Jairzinho (Rozenstruik). I’m going to manage the fight. I’m going to win after five rounds. Maybe before with a submission or something like that. Why not?”
If Gane gets his wish and finishes Ngannou, he’s already got an idea for the next fight he’d like to take. It involves a former light heavyweight champion whose recent outside the cage controversies have again overshadowed his sporting achievements and put his short-term career at risk.
“[Jon Jones] wants to go to this division, he wants to prove he can do it and he did a lot for that,” Gane said. “Probably a fight against him would be really great for me because a lot of people compare the style, we’re well-rounded, good fight I.Q. Maybe it’s gonna be a great matchup, I think so, and probably it’s gonna be great for my pocket.”
Ciryl Gane is a perfect 10-0 on his pro MMA career. He entered the UFC as a 3-0 prospect in 2019 and impressed with back-to-back submissions in his first two Octagon appearances. In 2020 he TKO’d former champ Junior dos Santos. This year he has beaten Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Alexander Volkov by decisions and then finished Derrick Lewis to earn the interim heavyweight title.