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Ciryl Gane downplays sparring footage with Francis Ngannou: ‘Sometimes, it was better for him’

Interim UFC heavyweight champion Ciryl Gane doesn’t put much stock into the sparring footage that recently surfaced between he and undisputed champ Francis Ngannou.

Ngannou has said the footage was “manipulated” in a way that made Gane look better than he was. That prompted Fernand Lopez, Ngannou’s former coach and Gane’s current one, to counter that the undisputed champ sat down from exhaustion after taking a knee to the liver.

Gane has tried not to step in between his coach and former sparring partner as they’ve traded shots in the media. He’s also made it clear that he hasn’t been thrilled with all of Ngannou’s behavior leading up to their title unifier, which headlines UFC 270 on Jan. 22 in Anaheim, Calif. But he doesn’t think anything better of himself because of a sparring session caught on tape.

“For me, it was a good part of my sparring,” he said on The MMA Hour recently. “Sometimes, it was more balanced. Sometimes, it was better for him. Sometimes, it was better for, like every sparring you do with a sparring partner, this is a good part of myself. Not too much, but it was good.”

Gane was a little confused as to why the footage ended up on the account of his gym given its relative lack of meaning. It’s been several years since the two sparred together and several years since they’ve spoken. For all the talk about their shared history, he said they were distant even when they were working together.

“Yeah, he doesn’t like to have a lot of friends,” Gane said of Ngannou. “This is my opinion. This is my feeling. He doesn’t really have a lot of friends in my gym. He did maybe five years, something like that, but he doesn’t have a lot of friends.

“It was already complicated in the last camp with MMA Factory with Fernand. But he came back every time to do the camp. Maybe he found something better in [Las Vegas].”

As far as how the behind-the-scenes drama might affect the fight, Gane said it won’t deter him from accomplishing his current goal to unify the belt. Ngannou may be burdened by the media narratives heading into the fight, to say nothing of a UFC future that hangs in the balance. That’s none of Gane’s concern.

“For me, that’s better to be focused on your mission,” he said. “But this is exactly Francis. Francis doesn’t have a lot of confidence in too many people, so he likes to do everything around him. It was a little bit the same, I heard that, at the MMA factory. He likes to manage it. He doesn’t want to give part of the jobs to Fernand Lopez.

“Me, I just go to the gym, I train myself, and that’s it. All the rest of the jobs is for Martin. Me, I’m always focused on my fight and my job. I think this has helped me a lot. But you must be confident with your camp. Maybe it was a problem with Francis with the MMA Factory.”