MMA fans have heard from Ciryl Gane’s coach about the viral snub that boosted interest in his UFC 270 title unifier against Francis Ngannou. But until today, the interim champ hadn’t addressed it.
On Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, UFC interim heavyweight champion Gane spoke out against Ngannou’s behavior backstage at UFC 268, likening it to a teaching moment he’d have with his family.
In other words, when something is wrong, you have to call it out.
“This is wrong,” Gane said. “For me, it was wrong. That’s it.”
Gane said he had no desire to get in the middle of a public feud between his coach Fernand Lopez and Ngannou, who once trained with them both at the MMA Factory in Paris. But he echoed Lopez in expressing disappointment about another person caught up in the drama: UFC middleweight Nassourdine Imamov, a longtime Ngannou sparring partner who’d just picked up an octagon win before the awkward interaction.
Gane isn’t sure whether Ngannou’s reaction would have been the same if he wasn’t there. But the fact that whatever was going on was important enough for Ngannou to ignore a colleague rubbed him the wrong way.
“For me, I don’t know, it was just for Fernand Lopez,” he said. “But it was a little bit [of] shame, because you have your future opponent, you have your former sparring partner, [and] also Nassourdine Imamov.
“Nassourdine Imamov did a lot of sparring for Francis Ngannou, maybe the biggest sparring he had in his career. So that’s why we were a little bit ashamed. He just won his fight in Madison Square Garden. That why it was a little bit shame, that’s why it was a little bit wrong for me.”
Apart from that, Gane has decided to remain detached from the personal backdrop of his fight with Ngannou, which takes place Jan. 22 at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. He’s even poked fun at it, recreating Ngannou’s snub backstage at a soccer game. He can understand why the video has taken on a life of its own.
“Because this looks a little bit like disrespect, and when the people are talking, they like to click and repost and do something like that,” he said. “It’s normal.”
The video picked up almost 715,000 likes on Instagram and was watched millions of times by fight fans, which made it a centerpiece of pre-fight interviews. Another video of sparring footage between he and Ngannou touched off another round of back and forth between Lopez and his former student, adding even more drama to the buildup.
This has not been the typical preamble to a Gane fight. But the 31-year-old Frenchman doesn’t attribute that to what’s been going on behind the scenes.
“It’s different, but not because it’s Francis — but because he’s the champion right now,” Gane said. “And the champion is a really great fighter, who has a lot of strength, and this is the final boss to my video game. But like every time, if I make a mistake, it’s going to be OK. If I lose, I’m really OK with that. Like every fight in my career went like that. But at this time, yes, I want to do the last step. That’s why it’s a little bit different.”