We’re just over two months removed from a monstrous showdown between UFC Heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou and interim champion, Ciryl Gane, and the heat is already rising between both parties.
The source of the friction? Gane’s coach, Ferdinand Lopez from MMA Factory, who also happens to be Francis Ngannou’s former coach. Lopez and Ngannou were together through Ngannou’s early rise through UFC up until his bad loss at the hands of then-champ Stipe Miocic in 2018.
Well, with the exception of the moments where Lopez said he had to throw Ngannou out of the gym over “The Predator’s” refusal to pay dues.
“During the time that we live together, I asked him to step out of the gym twice, myself and Francis,” Lopez said on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani (via MMA News). “When Francis fought against Anthony Hamilton [in 2016], that fight, I choose to not go. I said to him, ‘I’m not coaching you anymore, I need you to step out of the gym.’ Because Francis said to me, ‘There’s a guy who is calling to get money in the gym from fighters, membership.’ And Francis said to me, ‘I’m the one bringing the (spot)light in the gym. I shall not pay any membership.’”
“I said, ‘This is crazy.’ I mean, you must be crazy. You spent four years on your life, for free in my gym. I never asked you for anything, any penny. And now that you’re not poor anymore, and I keep bringing poor guys in my gym, there’s around 40 guy homeless in my gym, poor people that I’m taking care of them. I call that ‘file zero.’ When a guy shows up in my gym, I send him to my secretary and I say, ‘Give him file zero.’ Means take him to the gym for free.”
“And I said, ‘Okay, you become a successful man, you have money, you pay me 10 percent. On top of the 10 percent, you ask me to pay the sparring partner with that money that you give me. On top of that, you’re saying that that will be shame to know that a big man like you is paying the membership.’ You know how much is the membership in a year in my gym? €600. €600 per year, one year. And he said, ‘No, I will not pay.’”
“So, I said, ‘You know what, you don’t listen to me anymore when I’m giving the class, you choose the easy way to train, please let’s just split.’ And he did.”
This is just the latest item in a laundry list of issues between Ngannou and Lopez that Lopez has expanded on since their split. Lopez also accused Ngannou of refusing to prepare properly for the first Miocic fight, instead declaring he’d rely on his knockout power to dethrone the champ. And then after that went horribly wrong, Lopez felt like Ngannou threw him under the bus, implying it was the crappy training at MMA Factory that resulted in the loss.
One thing is for sure: Ngannou is now happier at Extreme Couture under new coach Eric Nicksick, who has not had an issue rounding Francis out into a much more terrifying fighter. And Ferdinand Lopez has his own apt pupil in Ciryl Gane, who has no problem fighting with his head rather than his hands when the situation calls for it.
Ngannou and Gane face off on Jan. 22, 2022, at UFC 270 in Anaheim, California. With both men looking like they’ll be sitting atop the Heavyweight rankings for a while to come, we doubt this will be the only time they fight. But this one is special: it’s to unify UFC’s Heavyweight title ... and assuage the pride of a coach scorned.