There’s a saying that holds when it comes to combat sports: Controversy creates cash. Heading into UFC 270 and the undisputed UFC Heavyweight Championship fight between champion Francis Ngannou and challenger Ciryl Gane, the interest level just got turned up a notch.
Sparring footage between the former MMA Factory teammates was released ahead of their bout on Jan. 22 from inside the Honda Center in Anaheim. Ngannou, no longer with MMA Factory due to issues with former coach Fernand Lopez, is not pleased.
According to the champion, the footage released was to make Gane look like the better of the two.
“When I saw that footage, my first reaction was laughing. Because I know exactly what happened at those training sessions,” Ngannou said on his YouTube channel, via Bloody Elbow. “But this is the thing. When they want to like, do some highlight, they always choose the part of the video that they use. And they have a lot of videos like that because, at the time, they were filming our training session to promote him, his fight, and everything. So, there was a lot of footage from those few training sessions. But a lot of them never came out and would never come out. And I know for a fact that they will never come out.
“It’s about to make him look better and make me look bad, to prove that he’s the man. I really get intrigued by those stuff sometimes. And then how they just control people’s mind, conditioning them to think. And they just think like, suddenly they just shift from one way to other way of thinking. And I’m like, ‘wow, how easy is that to manipulate people,’ which they’re really good at manipulation. But at the end of the day, as I said, we both know, everyone knows for a fact.”
Making his MMA debut in 2013, Ngannou was involved with France’s MMA Factory from 2013-2018. He quickly rose in the ranks of the combat sports world while working with Lopez, eventually joining the UFC in 2015.
Unsuccessfully challenging for the UFC Heavyweight Title at UFC 220 to start 2018, Ngannou eventually joined Xtreme Couture. From there, he has won five in a row, including the heavyweight title from Stipe Miocic in a rematch back in March. All five of those wins came via knockout.
Gane, a Muay Thai star, made his MMA debut in 2018, working early with Ngannou. Making his UFC debut in 2019, Gane is 7-0 with the promotion, beating Derrick Lewis for the interim title in August.
Ngannou discussed the rift between him and Lopez in an interview with GQ not long ago. He stated that Lopez wanted to be famous, and he complained that Ngannou, the fighter, was hogging the spotlight. A feud began as a result of it. The only drama between Gane and Ngannou came at UFC 268 when Ngannou completely no-sold Gane as he was walking past him, sending an early message.
Ngannou has stated in the past, however, that their fight is not personal.
Outside of his issues with Lopez and the bout against Gane, Ngannou is dealing with another battle with the UFC. When Ngannou won the heavyweight title, he traveled to Cameroon, among other places, and helped his community. Instead of booking a fight against Lewis in September, the UFC decided to book an interim title fight, delaying Ngannou’s return. There was also the issue of a fight between Ngannou and Jon Jones not coming to fruition, with negotiations going nowhere fast.
Ngannou’s contract with the UFC is almost up (right after UFC 270), and UFC President Dana White has stated he can leave the promotion if he is not happy there. White blames the representation of Ngannou. Marquel Martin, Ngannou’s agent, went on Sirius XM’s “Throwing Down with Renee and Miesha” and stated they have not heard anything from the UFC regarding a new contract. The CAA agent and White appear to not be on the same page, and Martin’s recent interview further illustrates that.
“They’ve made it pretty clear where they’re at, so it’s an unfortunate, and I hate to say this, but it feels like a standoff,” Martin stated, via MMA Fighting. “But it’s really not. It’s just like, we would love to be with the UFC, we would love to do business with the UFC, but they’ve chosen to go about the way that they’ve gone, and the way that we don’t feel is right.”
Between the UFC, Lopez, and Gane, Ngannou has a lot on his plate heading into UFC 270. With multiple hurdles in his way, he must go through one fight at a time, starting with the one for his heavyweight title.
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