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Francis Ngannou coach hopes Rico Verhoeven continues to work with champ ahead of title defense vs. Ciryl Gane

Rico Verhoeven and Francis Ngannou
@francisngannou, Instagram

Francis Ngannou is working with some heavy hitters ahead of his first heavyweight title defense in January.

On Wednesday, Ngannou’s head coach Eric Nicksick released a photo on Instagram showing the UFC heavyweight champion — who is preparing to defend against former teammate Ciryl Gane in the main event of UFC 270 on Jan. 22 — and GLORY heavyweight titleholder Rico Verhoeven together at Xtreme Couture.

MMA Fighting reached out to Nicksick who provided some context about how the pairing came together.

“It’s nothing too crazy,” Nicksick told MMA Fighting. “We’ve hit him up a few times about working for camps but schedules never really meshed. He was out in [Los Angeles] for a couple of weeks, he’s gonna be out here for a week.

“We’ll try to get him back out here mid-camp, and then again at the tail end.”

Verhoeven is coming off of a hard fought fourth-round TKO win over Jamal Ben Saddik at October’s GLORY Collision 3 event where Verhoeven suffered a gruesome eye injury — to the point where his phone no longer recognized him — and is still recovering, so he isn’t able to spar with Ngannou. The hope is that over the next couple of months, Verhoeven and Ngannou will work more closely ahead of the unification bout between Ngannou and Gane.

Ngannou captured the title with a second-round KO win over Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 in March.