Ciryl Gane has NO beef with old team-mate Francis Ngannou, with the heavyweight titans on a collision course… but the champ’s spurned coach FINALLY has the chance to get the recognition he feels he deserved during the Predator’s UFC rise
- Francis Ngannou is on a collision course to meet former team-mate Ciryl Gane
- The Frenchman, 31, won the interim heavyweight title by beating Derrick Lewis
- Gane claims there is no beef with the Cameroonian, but his coach is still hurt
- Ngannou, 34, failed to defend Fernand Lopez after his defeat to Stipe Miocic
- Now, he has the chance to derail Ngannou’s plans for a Jon Jones super fight
Five months on from his heavyweight title triumph, it has been a fairly uncertain time for UFC superstar Francis Ngannou.
The Cameroonian knockout artist’s sensational victory over Stipe Miocic did not only see him avenge his 2018 defeat to the former heavyweight king, but also appeared to be the beginnings of an exciting new era in the division.
However, things have stagnated for the 34-year-old, just when he was hoping for lift off.
It has been a fairly uncertain time for UFC heavyweight king Francis Ngannou this year
A fight between Ngannou (left) and Jon Jones (right) has failed to materialise in recent months
A super-fight with Jon Jones has failed to materialise, much to the Predator’s frustration. News of the UFC creating an interim heavyweight title this month has served as another crippling blow to Ngannou.
‘That was very surprising because in the past we didn’t get an interim title, because Stipe wasn’t active and they didn’t even consider that at all,’ a despondent Ngannou said last week. ‘They didn’t want to talk about it.
‘I’m at the point where, when it comes to me, nothing good is coming my way, it looks like. They aren’t making anything good to come my way.
‘It’s OK, but I think at this point regarding my last run, I deserve at least some respect as a UFC champion. I’ve been down, I know my low time, and I face it.’
Just when Ngannou appeared on the precipice of a huge rivalry with former light heavyweight king Jones, a new foe has emerged from left field – a rival that the 34-year-old will be all too familiar with.
In the meantime, a new foe has emerged – one that Ngannou is all too familiar with
Ciryl Gane has just 10 professional fights to his name but is on the cusp of a shot at the title
Ciryl Gane, like Ngannou, has been forged in Paris and unleashed on the UFC. In just 10 professional mixed martial arts bouts, the 31-year-old has scaled the dizzy heights of the heavyweight ranks, with his victory over Derrick Lewis placing him in pole position for a tilt at old team-mate Ngannou’s belt.
The team-mates-turned-foe narrative has been at the heart of some of the UFC’s best rivalries. Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw endured a bitter rivalry following the latter’s exit from Team Alpha Male, while Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal have exchanged terse words following Chaos’s departure from American Top Team.
Yet you won’t find such ferocity between Ngannou and Gane. The former sparring partners have kept things civil, despite being inextricably linked to a heavyweight dust up.
‘No, for me, it’s just a sport, it’s just a sport,’ Gane said during the post-fight press at the Toyota Center. ‘I just want to make a show, I just want to do a performance, this is my job, and I just want to make money every time.’
Ngannou and Gane used to train together at the MMA Factory in Paris, before he left in 2018
The reality is, though, that Ngannou and Gane’s inevitable collision course is likely to reopen old wounds, but not between the two parties you would expect.
Gane holds no ill will towards his former team-mate, but it is Ngannou’s former long-term coach that will seek to get one over the Cameroonian and earn vindication for what he feels are past wrongs inflicted upon him.
Fernand Lopez was the mastermind behind Ngannou’s first rise to title contention , with the head coach of MMA Factory in Paris fine-tuning the Predator into the sensational knockout artist that tore through the heavyweight ranks.
However, when all expected Ngannou to lay his hands on UFC gold in 2018, things went off course. The 34-year-old was outclassed by Miocic in Boston, leading to queries regarding his attitude and his preparations heading into UFC 220.
It was Ngannou’s failure to, first, credit his coach for his ascension to the summit of the UFC and, second, to defend his coach when things went awry, that left Lopez heartbroken as Ngannou decided to change gyms and move to Team Xtreme Couture MMA in the States.
Gane, 31, maintains that there is no personal grudge with Ngannou following his gym exit
However, Gane’s coach and Ngannou’s former mentor Fernand Lopez (L) is still hurt by his exit
‘I don’t have any problem with my guy moving in another gym,’ Lopez told MMA Fighting. ‘People are really misunderstanding my point of view. I don’t have any beef on that. The problem that I had with Francis, which is over my head now, about recognizing people that helped you to grow a little bit.
‘I was wondering is there any problem? We spent five years together in my gym. You never pay anything, everything is free for you. I took you under my wing, took care of you, everything.
‘What’s so bad for you? What is so hard for you to say that “Fernand Lopez brought me the UFC contract.” Why would you say to a journalist, they ask you how you got to to the UFC and you’re like “I was just fighting, I was winning fights and I got the call from the UFC.”
‘Do you [Ngannou] remember me fighting to get you in the UFC when you was 3-1? Then Joe Silva said no. When you was 4-1, when you were 5-1 and I eventually called a friend of mine and [work] with him in order to get you into the UFC.
‘Do you remember that? I called to you and said “hey Francis, happy birthday” and I said “I have a present for you. I have your UFC contract”.’
Lopez (right) helped nurture Ngannou’s talent as an MMA hopeful when he first arrived in Paris
The coach (right) claims he played an integral role in getting Ngannou signed by the UFC
Lopez detailed how he came to blows with Ngannou over his lack of recognition for his coach’s work, and their relationship soured completely following his defeat to Miocic.
‘The fight came with Stipe [Miocic] and we had the fight and then after the fight the same thing goes again,’ Lopez said. ‘I heard him in the press conference tell the journalists “congratulations to Stipe, he had a very good game plan.”
‘I was like f***, are you kidding me? I give you the game plan. I was backing you when I found out you didn’t follow the game plan. I called the other coach, we had a meeting, they begged you to follow the game plan and you said no, you don’t need to go to school to beat someone. That’s what you said with your words. You said with the reflex [power], I will take him out.
However, Ngannou’s failure to defend Lopez after his loss to Stipe Miocic still rankles with him
The Cameroonian also did not move to credit Lopez (right) for his sharp rise in the UFC
‘So when this started to touch me, you could have said “well, this is my fault. Sorry guys, don’t blame only my coach, cause this is my camp. I’m the boss of the camp.”
‘If my fighter loses a fight, I lose right with him. I need to stick with him. But in that case, there’s so many fighters, they apologize to their cornermen. So many guys apologize to their coach like ‘I didn’t follow the game plan.’
‘So I was like why don’t you say something? I’m bringing that up just because to let you know, there was no actual beef before leaving the gym.’
Clearly, the events surrounding Ngannou’s loss to Miocic and his subsequent departure still rankles with Lopez, and now he has the opportunity to get one over his old student through his new prodigy, Gane.
Yet Lopez claims his grudge is not ‘personal’ and that a fight between Ngannou (left) and Gane (right) will be like watching his two ‘kids’ fighting
Yet Lopez insists that his grudge with Ngannou is not personal, despite his lack of recognition for his role in the Cameroonian’s sharp rise, and he admits it will be a strange feeling watching his two ‘kids’ fighting each other in the UFC.
‘It will not be personal for me,’ Lopez said. ‘Not at all personal for Ciryl Gane, which I was always begging to not get involved in that sort of beef. Because I want to be clear in his mind, there’s nothing there.
‘I think the fight will be a good fight,. You cannot get a better fight at this point than this one. If people were doubting Ciryl Gane, after the massacre that they just saw two days ago, you can’t keep doubting on Ciryl Gane.
‘This is the fight to make. I will be sad to have my two kids, they were born in the MMA Factory, facing each other.’
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