Just a few days later, however, Gane got the news that he will face Jones at UFC 285 on March 4 to crown a new UFC heavyweight champion. The promotion was unable to come to terms with Ngannou on a new deal and released him from all contractual obligations, making him a free agent.
“Everybody knows the situation with Francis and Jon Jones,” Gane explained when asked about his tweet at the UFC Vegas 67 post-fight press conference. “We’re going to wait how long? How many times are we going to wait? So hey guys, we’re here. I think it was a great decision. Twenty-four hours after, we got great news. I’m really, really happy.”
Gane, who once counted Ngannou as a teammate and training partner early in his MMA career, doesn’t know what the former heavyweight champion will do next, much less what led to free agency.
Ngannou’s exit also seemingly nixes any chance that Gane has for a rematch after he lost to “The Predator” by unanimous decision at UFC 270. None of that seems to bother Gane, because he’s got his own career to worry about.
“Maybe three days after the fight against Francis, after I lost, I looked forward,” Gane said. “I looked to the future.
“I’m not in his head. I don’t know what is his plan. I know he wants to move, he wants to make some pressure on the UFC, [UFC President] Dana [White] and [UFC COO] Hunter [Campbell], he posted on Instagram some pictures with another organization, some stuff like that with boxing with Tyson Fury. Maybe he wants to move. I don’t know exactly, but it’s not my worry.”
For months, it appeared Ngannou was on a collision course with Jones as the ex-UFC light heavyweight champion plotted his course to conquer a second division after running roughshod over 205 pounds.
Now, the attention shifts toward Jones versus Gane. The French heavyweight believes he presents a much different and potentially more difficult challenge than Ngannou.
“I know I’ve got good footwork at first, I think I’m a little bit more well-rounded [than Ngannou],” Gane said. “I look a little bit more like Jon Jones. Yes, when you have a big guy that just wants to kill you with one punch, it’s more easier for a guy well-rounded and smart like Jon Jones to manage the situation.
“Me, also, I am not like that. I like to manage the situation. It’s going to be really good.”
In many ways, Gane is still learning on the job. He didn’t make his MMA debut until 2018, seven years after Jones became a UFC champion for the first time.
When he finally got started, Gane admired Jones’ talent as the now-former light heavyweight champ became arguably one of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport. Taking on somebody like Jones is exactly what Gane has always wanted, and he’s bubbling over with anticipation as he prepares for their matchup in March.
“When I started watching this, Jon Jones was one of my favorite fighters,” Gane revealed. “More when I started MMA, because I’m a fan of every sport in MMA, and when you look at a guy like Jon Jones, who’s well-rounded like this, you really appreciate it. He’s the GOAT. Look at his career.
“Today, I’m a young fighter, and I think it’s the dream of every young fighter to fight against a GOAT. This is really crazy for me.”
The main event at UFC 285 also serves as Gane’s second opportunity to become undisputed heavyweight champion after he came up short in his previous bid against Ngannou. He also has the chance to hand Jones the first legitimate loss of his career (the only current defeat on Jones’ resume came via disqualification in a fight against Matt Hamill that Jones was dominating), which would also be a huge accomplishment.
When asked which one means more to him, Gane could only smile.
“Both are going to help me grow my career, and both are really exciting,” Gane said. “That’s a great question. Both. Because I’ve never had this belt, and because fighting against this guy is going to be really crazy.”