On Monday, MMA Fighting confirmed that Gane and Derrick Lewis will meet in the headliner of UFC 265 for an interim heavyweight championship. The event takes place Aug. 7 at the Toyota Center in Houston. The announcement comes a little over three months removed from Ngannou knocking out Stipe Miocic to become the undisputed champion.
While the news of Gane, who defeated Alexander Volkov this past Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 30, and Lewis vying for interim gold came as a shock to everyone involved, it wasn’t to Gane or his head coach as he revealed to MMA Fighting on Thursday that plans were in place for the bout earlier than originally thought.
“Before the fight we knew that,” Gane told MMA Fighting. “The UFC sent a message to [my coach] Fernand Lopez and he told me, ‘My man, do your job tonight and after this fight, you’re gonna have some good news.’
“When we arrived in France on Monday, we got a message from the UFC about that fight for August. We knew about it, but if you don’t have the contract, it’s not official, but when we knew about that, I stayed very focused against Volkov because we had to win that fight to have the chance for the title shot. So I was really focused and we did it.”
Gane has won all nine of his pro fights, including a 6-0 start to his octagon tenure, which also includes victories over Jairzinho Rozenstruik, Junior dos Santos and Tanner Boser. “Bon Gamin” will make the walk at UFC 265 a little over three years to the day of his debut for Canadian promotion TKO.
So when the news became official that the UFC was going with the interim title fight, Gane was very excited for the opportunity.
“It was awesome, I was really happy,” Gane said. “For me, it means something. I’m a young guy. I’ve just arrived and I’m in the headline [spot] after just three years in MMA.
“I was a little bit [surprised] because we thought it would be Francis against Derrick Lewis, but Francis wasn’t free for the fight in August so they chose me.”
Ngannou’s head coach Eric Nicksick told MMA Fighting on Wednesday that the news came as a “shock” to the champ, as well as his entire team considering plans seemed to be in place for Ngannou to defend his title against Lewis on Sept. 25.
While it’s certainly seems quick for a promotion to go right for an interim title barely a quarter of a year after the current champion captured the strap, Gane doesn’t feel bad for Ngannou.
“I can understand [where Francis is coming from] but [I don’t feel bad for him],” Gane explained. “It’s just an interim title, so the champion is still Francis. Not really [feeling bad] for Francis. If I was Francis, this would be nothing for me.”
Lewis will enter his 34th pro fight and his second opportunity at UFC gold. “The Black Beast” challenged Daniel Cormier for the title at UFC 230 in November 2018 and was submitted in the second round. After dropping his next fight to dos Santos four months later, Lewis has won his last four, including brutal knockout wins over Aleksei Oleinik and Curtis Blaydes.
For Gane, he has all the respect in the world for Lewis and his power, but he believes the tools he brings to the table will be too much for the hometown favorite on fight night.
“This guy is very dangerous, we know that,” Gane said. “Like Jairzinho, a little bit, when this guy touches you just one time, you’re down. And that’s very dangerous, but I think we’re gonna manage that style, touch him, and he’ll never touch me. I think I have the skills to do that.
“Yes, [I’ve been impressed with him] because some people say he doesn’t have fight IQ, doesn’t have some skills. But he knows what he has, and he can use it very well. I think this guy is really dangerous.
“But I think we’re gonna pressure him like we did Volkov. We’re gonna make it [so he’s] in deep water, I’m gonna give him a lot of pressure.”
Winning interim gold will just be another step forward towards Gane’s ultimate goal of becoming the undisputed UFC heavyweight champion. Should he be victorious, he would be more than happy to face his former teammate in a unification bout.
If for some reason the UFC can come to terms with Jon Jones and book a fight between the former light heavyweight champion and Ngannou, Gane was asked who he would rather face in that scenario: his former teammate and countryman, or the unbeaten puzzle that’s yet to be solved?
“This is a good question,” Gane said. “Just for the history, I would prefer [to fight] Francis Ngannou in Paris, [mostly] for the fans.”