Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane were training partners for a short time, but you wouldn’t know that by their backstage interaction at UFC 268.
Cameras caught Ngannou appearing to ignore Gane and his team backstage at Madison Square Garden, which hosted the pay-per-view event this past Saturday. Gane appears surprised by Ngannou’s apparent snub, and he and his coach, Fernand Lopez, later smile at each other.
Of course, there is outstanding business between Ngannou and Gane. The undisputed and interim champ are set to clash at UFC 270 on Jan. 22 in Anaheim, Calif. Gane became the interim champ after stopping Derrick Lewis at UFC 265, a pay-per-view Ngannou was supposed to headline before scheduling conflicts ruled him out and the UFC installed Gane. Ngannou subsequently welcomed the title unifier.
Long before Ngannou surged to the top of the heavyweight food chain, he was an immigrant looking to make his name in fighting, and Lopez took the Cameroon native under his wing at MMA Factory in Paris. It was there that Ngannou briefly trained with Gane, though Gane said the UFC champ had moved to Las Vegas by the time he formally joined the team, and the two weren’t close during their brief stint together.
Things were considerably more icy between Ngannou and Lopez, who said the undisputed UFC champ was stingy about acknowledging his contribution to the training that led to the title. Ngannou, in turn, said the coach was focused on the wrong things.
Such is the drama surrounding the UFC 270 headliner, though both camps have vowed not to make things personal. But at least for now, things aren’t going to be friendly.