That’s because Lopez is the man responsible for bringing Ngannou up the ranks, having coached him for years at MMA Factory Paris. As Ngannou rose to the top, a young Gane (10-0 MMA, 7-0 UFC) followed suit and now Lopez has two of his students battling for the No. 1 spot at heavyweight in the UFC 270 headliner.
Although Ngannou (16-3 MMA, 11-2 UFC) parted ways with Lopez and MMA Factory Paris more than three years ago, Lopez knows the kind of athlete Ngannou is. There is no love lost between the two, and they had a less than amicable split, but with Ngannou capturing the heavyweight title in early 2021 and Gane capturing the interim title at UFC 265, Lopez finds himself plotting against Ngannou.
“Francis is intelligent. Ciryl is a computer,” Lopez told MMA Junkie. “Francis is very, very strong. Ciryl is strong as a heavyweight.”
Gane won the interim heavyweight title by finishing Derrick Lewis, the UFC’s record holder for most knockout finishes. As Gane gears up to face another devastating puncher, Lopez sees Ngannou as a lot more of a threat than Lewis.
“Definitely it’s a good preparation, but it doesn’t mean anything,” Lopez said of Gane’s win over Lewis. “Francis Ngannou is a different animal, moving faster – he’s pretty quick for that weight class. He’s kind of fast for that weight class. People underestimate how fast Francis can be. He’s fast. Ciryl is faster, but Francis is fast. He’s kind of quick when he moves. He has decent footwork and he’s athletic. When Ciryl Gane fought Derrick Lewis, there were a couple of times where Derrick Lewis rushed to try and cut him, to cut the angle.
“But because of his athleticism that Ciryl Gane can run faster, he eventually escaped. If that was Francis, he would have closed the gap a little bit faster than that, so I think this is what he should do – try to learn how to close that gap a little bit faster. But again, you never know what’ll happen if you try and close that gap faster because if you go faster, you can’t control and break. That means if the direction changes, you fall. That’s why this fight is kind of intriguing.”
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