Just a few days ago, a clip circled the web of Francis Ngannou walking past former teammate Ciryl Gane without so much as a glance in his direction. It was a pretty cold move for a generally affable competitor, but there’s more to the story than simple pre-fight drama.
More than Gane himself, Ngannou has considerable beef with former head coach Fernand Lopez. Their dispute is the primary reason Ngannou left the MMA Factory team, where Gane remains. Ngannou described Lopez as desperate to be famous, whereas Lopez has argued that the Heavyweight refused to credit him for all his help, only blaming him when fights go wrong.
Based on the evidence above, the two are clearly not on speaking terms. Caught in the middle are Gane and another former training partner in UFC Middleweight Nassourdine Imavov, who picked up an impressive victory that night. Gane spoke to MMA Junkie about the diss, and the interim Heavyweight kingpin sounded more disappointed than anything else.
“Why? Just why? It was not necessary,” Gane said. “But it’s like that. Some people think differently than me. Some people are different. So for me, it was not necessary. But he did it. This is his story, so that’s it. …
“I’m surprised because maybe he has something against me, maybe he has something against his former coach, Fernand Lopez, but Nassourdine Imavov? Nassourdine Imavov just finished his fight, and he won, and in MMA Factory, maybe Nassourdine Imavov was Francis’ biggest sparring partner. So Fernand, OK. Me, I’m the future opponent, OK. But Nassourdine Imavov, it’s a little bit of a shame.”
Though his personal relationship with Ngannou will undoubtedly remain one of the bigger narratives heading into their title unification bout — it’s such an easy sell for the promotion — Gane is doing his best to minimize that storyline. Gane wants to keep the attention focused on himself and his strong performances.
“At first, I was a little bit uncomfortable with that because too many people try to put me in the headlines like, ‘The guy with the revenge,’ but this is not my story,” Gane said. “Let me do my thing, and now I’m comfortable with that. When I started my career in the UFC, maybe my first three fights after every fight, the journalists talk about that: ‘And Francis and Francis.’ Yo, stay focused on me please. I just arrived; I’m gonna do my thing. Francis was already in the top five, so this is the feeling.”
Gane and Ngannou will meet in the main event of UFC 270 on Jan. 22, 2022, from inside Honda Center in Anaheim, California.