At UFC 265 last night Ciryl Gane extended his unbeaten record to defeat Derrick Lewis and earn the interim UFC heavyweight title belt.
The interim belt was created for this bout because UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou—who won the title against Stipe Miocic in March—has not been as obedient as the promotion would prefer. Since winning the title Ngannou has been campaigning for a blockbuster bout with former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, something Jones also wants.
However, the UFC has not been willing to book this fight because both men have requested a bumper purse for what would be one of the biggest fights the UFC could make.
Instead of making that fight, the UFC put a belt on Gane. The pressure is now on Ngannou to unify the belts by fighting Gane. If Ngannou does not do this he risks his title status being diminished or potentially revoked.
A match-up between Ngannou and Gane would also include a tried and tested storyline of former training partners turned rivals. Those fighters know each other well from Paris’ MMA Factory, a gym operated by Fernand Lopez.
Lopez was with Ngannou at the beginning of the current champion’s UFC career. However, after some setbacks in the cage Ngannou left Lopez and the Factory for other options. Gane remains with that gym.
In his post-fight press conference UFC President Dana White acknowledged that the stars have aligned for him, with regards to this potential match-up (and with MMA recently becoming legal in France).
“Like he said earlier, we’ve been working a long time on getting France,” White said (ht MMA Junkie). “France is open now and we just got a TV deal in France. Here we are. What you always want to do when you either build fighters or build fights or put on fights is you want to have the best possible guys fighting each other that you possibly can. It doesn’t get any better than this. You couldn’t write it. You couldn’t script it. Fucking Vince (McMahon) couldn’t have wrote a better script for this whole thing. It’s beautiful.”
Vince McMahon is the chairman and CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment and is known for crafting over-the-top, and sometimes boundary pushing, storylines involving his talent.
Last night’s big winner Gane is now 10-0. His UFC debut came in 2019, with an arm triangle finish over Raphael Pessoa. He followed that up with a heel hook win over Don’Tale Mayes.
After a unanimous decision win over Tanner Boser, his third win in 2019, Gane returned in 2020 with a TKO win over former heavyweight champ Junior dos Santos. In 2021 Gane has unanimous decision wins over Alexander Volkov and Jairzinho Rozenstruik to go with his TKO win over Lewis last night.
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