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Francis Ngannou discusses falling out with old coach Fernand Lopez, relationship with Ciryl Gane

UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou said his old coach was jealous of his success.

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Francis Ngannou - UFC Fight Night: Holm v Shevchenko
Francis Ngannou with Fernand Lopez at UFC Fight Night: Holm vs. Shevchenko in 2016.
Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou is currently being strong-armed into a contest with Ciryl Gane, a man the UFC awarded an interim heavyweight belt to after he beat Derrick Lewis at UFC 265.

Ngannou had been campaigning for a blockbuster fight with Jon Jones. However, the UFC made it clear that it did not want to meet both Ngannou and Jones’ price tags for what would be the biggest fight the promotion could make.

Now Ngannou faces two options: Fight Gane for less money than he would have commanded for Jones or sit out and risk having his title stripped away. Ngannou recently spoke to GQ about how this made him feel, saying he questioned whether he was really UFC heavyweight champion.

With that outlet Ngannou also shed some light on his split from former coach Fernand Lopez. Lopez, the leader of Paris’ MMA factory, is currently coaching Gane. Their split happened after Ngannou suffered back-to-back losses in the UFC, first to Stipe Miocic and then to Derrick Lewis.

Since then Lopez has claimed that Ngannou’s stubbornness was to blame for their falling out. However, Ngannou is saying that Lopez’s jealousy and desire for the limelight is what really broke them apart.

“Fernand’s problem is that he wants to be famous,” said Ngannou. “I can count how many times we had to argue about how he thought I was taking all the spotlight...Bro, what do you want? If you want the spotlight, you know where the spotlight is. It’s inside the octagon, not on the side. And you chose to be on the side. I don’t know how to [make him famous] [laughs].

“If you want to be a coach, you have to stand where the coach stands and get what the coach gets. You can’t be a coach and get what the fighter gets. It has always been like that. He mentions how many followers I have on Instagram compared to him. I’m not worried about followers on Instagram—I wish I could throw some to you, but I can’t do that. This has always been a problem, basically.”

If Ngannou meets Gane it is expected that the UFC promotion machine will pick up the story of Ngannou and his past associations with Lopez and run with it. It’s also expected that much will be made of Ngannou and Gane’s shared history, as students together at MMA Factory.

However, Ngannou—who is also expecting such tactics—cautioned that there’s not much to tell about his and Gane’s time together.

“We trained for about one month back in January 2019, when I was going to fight Junior Dos Santos,” he said. “Technically we don’t know each other that much.”

“Sometimes when I hear them talk about the stories, I don’t recognize myself in it,” he continued, referencing stories that classify he and Gane as old friends. “Are you sure you’re talking about me and not somebody else? The way that they’re talking, I heard that we were training before [my fight against] Alister Overeem. [That] was two years before I even knew [Gane]. That’s just not true.”

After being out wrestled by Lewis in a dull affair at UFC 226 in 2018, Ngannou—under the tutelage of Xtreme Couture and the in-house coaches at the UFC Performance Institute—went on a tear the likes of which had never been seen.

He has won all five of his fights since then, ending them all by strikes with only one contest making it to the second round; his title winning KO over Miocic at UFC 260 in March. The other victories on this run include a 45-second win over Curtis Blaydes, a 25-second win over Cain Velasquez and a 20-second win over Jairzinho Rozenstruik. He also beat Junior dos Santos in one minute and eleven seconds.