Fernand Lopez, Ciryl Gane’s first MMA coach at the MMA Factory in Paris, estimated the heavyweight would be in the UFC in two years. Gane did it in half the time.
Now, just three years after embarking on his MMA journey, Gane is about to headline his first UFC fight card, battling Jairzinho Rozenstruik for perhaps the No. 2 contender spot in the big-man division. The two face off Saturday at UFC Vegas 20.
“I think if I win this Saturday, no matter who is in the line, I’m going to go after the belt,” Gane told reporters during a virtual media day for the event at UFC APEX in Las Vegas.
There may be more hurdles in front of him, depending on whom the UFC chooses as champ Stipe Miocic’s next challenger – if Miocic even seeks one rather than hanging up his gloves – after a rematch with Francis Ngannou at UFC 260 in March.
Derrick Lewis and Alexander Volkov are two winning heavyweights ahead of Gane in the promotion’s rankings, and the condition of the UFC 260 title winner may necessitate an interim solution. Then there’s the very real possibility that former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones will skip everyone and get the next title shot.
Gane may not agree with that move, but he said he’s OK with it.
“That’s crazy, and I think it’s possible because he’s a bankable guy, so it makes sense,” he said. “Some people could do this before him. It’s a little bit a shame, but I can understand. He’s a bankable guy.”
Gane, though, thinks Ngannou, another MMA Factory product, has a good chance of taking the title from Miocic, the record-holder for most heavyweight title defenses.
“If Francis learned from the first fight with Stipe, he should be winning this fight before the end,” Gane said.
Judges very well might be out of work in Saturday’s headliner, Gane believes, and the winner will look very good for the next step, whatever that is.
“I think the people are really excited about this fight,” he said. “High-level striking, and two young guys just arriving in the top of the division. So, of course, you can expect a big fight.”