The former teammates will square off to unify the heavyweight title Jan. 22 in the main event of UFC 270 and while they’re not exactly enemies, there’s definitely an added layer to their story.
That’s because Ngannou, the UFC heavyweight champion, had a falling out with Gane’s head coach, Fernand Lopez, which prompted him to make the permanent move to Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas. While Gane isn’t keen to get involved in any drama, he couldn’t help but be surprised when Ngannou just brushed past him and his team following Nassourdine Imavov’s big win over Edmen Shahbazyan this past weekend at Madison Square Garden.
But there’s a particular reason why newly crowned interim heavyweight champ Gane (10-0 MMA, 7-0 UFC) was disappointed with Ngannou (16-3 MMA, 11-2 UFC) ignoring his team.
“Why? Just why? It was not necessary,” Gane told MMA Junkie on Tuesday. “But it’s like that. Some people think differently than me. Some people are different. So for me, it was not necessary. But he did it. This is his story, so that’s it. …
“I’m surprised because maybe he has something against me, maybe he has something against his former coach, Fernand Lopez, but Nassourdine Imavov? Nassourdine Imavov just finished his fight, and he won, and in MMA Factory, maybe Nassourdine Imavov was Francis’ biggest sparring partner. So Fernand, OK. Me, I’m the future opponent, OK. But Nassourdine Imavov, it’s a little bit of a shame.”
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With the storyline heading into UFC 270 being dubbed as ex-teammates turned foes, Gane doesn’t see himself playing a part in the narrative. He understands that his name has been synonymous with Ngannou’s since Day 1, but he’s solely focused on his journey of becoming undisputed heavyweight champ.
“At first, I was a little bit uncomfortable with that because too many people try to put me in the headlines like, ‘The guy with the revenge,’ but this is not my story,” Gane said. “Let me do my thing, and now I’m comfortable with that. When I started my career in the UFC, maybe my first three fights after every fight, the journalists talk about that: ‘And Francis and Francis.’ Yo, stay focused on me please. I just arrived; I’m gonna do my thing. Francis was already in the top five, so this is the feeling.”
Photos: Francis Ngannou through the years
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