Coach Fernand Lopez is adamant that his MMA Factory Paris product, Francis Ngannou, can defeat Daniel Cormier or Stipe Miocic to claim the UFC heavyweight title regardless of who has their hand raised beyond the UFC 241 main event.
Although Ngannou is currently training in Las Vegas, Lopez has kept in contact with the heavyweight contender. Considering this weekend’s title clash, a rematch between champion Cormier and Miocic, Lopez believes the fight could play out very different than the championship duo’s first meeting at UFC 226.
(Editor’s note: Quotes in this article have been edited for clarity and concision)
“I think it will be different. Stipe is very good at wrestling and boxing, and I think if he’s focused the outcome could be different,” Lopez told MMA Fighting’s Eurobash podcast.
As far as Lopez is concerned, Ngannou is the rightful challenger for whoever the victor is in the Anaheim main even.
“If we take out the Jon Jones situation, Francis should be fighting for the belt right away. And I think no matter [who wins the title fight], no matter if it’s Stipe or ‘DC’, Francis is going to win the fight anyway,” he said.
Lopez believes Ngannou has improved greatly after suffering a string of two defeats against Miocic and Derrick Lewis.
“I don’t need my fighters to get a loss, but I definitely think the fighters can become mature and to get good,” he said. “If you look at a study of champions, the champions got good because they know [the feeling] of a loss.
“Having a loss is a lot of learning; you never learn like when you get loss. I think those losses have made Francis completely different,” he added.
He also highlighted how quickly the fan base turned on him after his losses, before his resurgent run of three knockout victories over Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos.
“People tend to forget what Francis has done. He pulled off a huge submission against Anthony [Hamilton] in his second or third UFC fight. People were amazed by how he could do that. People tend to forget because a couple of fights later people were talking like he didn’t have a clue about what’s going on the ground. Francis has looked amazing. When you take out the two losses that he had—he wasn’t in here, he wasn’t in a good state of mind—he has always been dangerous.”
Check out the latest episode of Eurobash. The Ciryl Gane and Coach Fernand Lopez interview begins at 37:00.