In a total shock announcement, Dana White confirmed that Derrick Lewis would fight Ciryl Gane for the UFC interim heavyweight title this August at UFC 265. Francis Ngannou won the actual belt a mere three months ago but because he said he wasn’t able to defend his belt in June or August, that was simply too long a wait for the UFC to handle.
Just about everyone seems to have been caught off guard by this news, including Ngannou himself.
His first tweet upon finding out about Lewis vs. Gane was to sarcastically cite the fact that he wanted an interim title bout vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik last year, and obviously while the fight happened it was never for an interim belt.
I remember my interim title fight against Jairzinho .... oh wait— Francis Ngannou (@francis_ngannou) June 28, 2021
“I remember my interim title fight against Jairzinho .... oh wait,” wrote Ngannou.
He also quote tweeted Ariel Helwani, who said it “doesn’t seem right” re the current heavyweight title picture.
Nothing has been right here https://t.co/SIeM9uEfBG— Francis Ngannou (@francis_ngannou) June 28, 2021
“Nothing has been right here,” Ngannou said.
We know that Ngannou has been vocal about his pay and wanting a bigger purse for a superfight with Jon Jones. Of course, brand > fighter and the UFC waits for no one, not even one of the most exciting champions on the roster. March to September (the date Ngannou agreed to rematch Lewis) is hardly a lengthy wait, but Lewis is a Houston native and now he gets a hometown PPV main event with an interim belt plucked out of thin air.
Perhaps another way to look at this is that this summer could’ve seen Ngannou vs. Jon Jones. Then it became Ngannou vs. Derrick Lewis. Now it’s Derrick Lewis vs. Ciryl Gane and not for the actual belt.
Exactly what the fans wanted to see.