Francis Ngannou is an incredible man with an incredible story. Leaving Cameroon and walking to Europe, he slept broke on the floors of his first mixed martial arts (MMA) gym en route to eventually capturing UFC’s Heavyweight title. Up until just recently, the only person with bad things to say about Ngannou was UFC President, Dana White, whose appreciation for Ngannou seems to wax and wane depending on how firmly under contract he remains.
But, with Francis fighting former teammate Ciryl Gane at UFC 270 on Jan. 22, 2022, there’s a lot of dirt coming via Gane’s coach, Fernand Lopez. Lopez trained Ngannou up until the first disastrous title shot for “The Predator,” and then the two split under sour circumstances. It wasn’t the first friction between the two. According to Lopez, he actually kicked Ngannou out of the gym twice for being such a bad teammate.
How bad of a teammate? Lopez was on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani and says when UFC matchmaker, Mick Maynard, asked Ngannou about his training partner Ciryl Gane, Ngannou said he wasn’t ready to fight in UFC.
“I tried to sign [Gane] with Mick Maynard,” Lopez said. “And you know what, Francis went back to Vegas and he said to me, ‘Hey, Mick asked me if young guy in my gym name Ciryl Gane is good.’ And I said, ‘Oh yeah, he did? He said, ‘Yes, but you know what? Because the matchmakers expect me to be very, very dithyrambic on the name of the guy, I didn’t say that. I said he’s a little bit good, but he’s not good yet to go to UFC.’”
“That’s coming from Francis Ngannou’s mouth! For him, that’s a strategy to do not have Mick Maynard get suspicious of me and him being on the same page, which is not true.”
So Francis’ reasoning for not pushing Ciryl was he didn’t want UFC to think he was over-selling his teammates out of loyalty. Which ... well, there’s no problem of that when you basically tell them not to sign a guy from your gym.
It’s worth noting that this is all coming from one guy, and we shouldn’t assume Lopez’s portrayal of a student who ditched him is 100 percent accurate. But, if Francis did this ... not cool, dude. Not cool.