Ngannou and Gane will settle four-year rivalry at UFC 270

A bitter back-and-forth with his old coach, leaked sparring footage and a FROSTY exchange in New York… Francis Ngannou’s relationship with Ciryl Gane soured in 2018 and now the heavyweight rivals will FINALLY settle it at UFC 270

  • Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane will settle a four-year grudge at UFC 270 
  • The heavyweight rivals used to train together while working at MMA Factory 
  • However, Ngannou left the team in 2018 following his defeat by Stipe Miocic
  • Gane’s coach, Fernand Lopez, has endured a back-and-forth with Ngannou since
  • Ngannou blanked Gane at UFC 268 and the pair will finally meet this weekend 

It’s the unfailing plot-line that always has viewers engrossed: a previously strong bond is shredded to pieces in acrimonious fashion, two old friends become enemies  and now the only way to settle this unfinished business is in war.

It is this narrative that will have millions of fans tuning into watch Colby Covington face Jorge Masvidal at UFC 272 and, likewise, so too will fans be eager to see how Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane shape up when they meet this weekend.   

The heavyweight rivals’ story began in Paris, where the pair trained together at MMA Factory under the watchful eye of head coach Fernand Lopez. 

Francis Ngannou (L) and Ciryl Gane (R) will settle their differences in the Octagon on Saturday

At the time, Ngannou was scaling the UFC’s heavyweight rankings, earning huge plaudits for his sensational displays in which he brutally flattened his opponents in uncompromising fashion. 

Meanwhile, Gane was making a name for himself in the world of kickboxing and Muay Thai, and the Frenchman would undertake sparring duties with Ngannou to help him prepare for his UFC bouts. 

The Cameroonian racked up 11 wins and one loss during his time with MMA Factory, but by 2018, the 35-year-old’s relationship with the gym, Lopez and Gane took a turn for the worst.

Ngannou’s attempt to win the UFC heavyweight title ended in disappointing fashion, with Stipe Miocic putting in a ground-and-pound masterclass to retain his belt via a one-sided unanimous decision.

The heavyweight rivals used to train together at the MMA Factory in Paris until 2018

Ngannou’s relationship with the gym took a turn for the worst after his loss to Stipe Miocic

The Predator’s performance, and apparent lack of preparation for a grappling-heavy contest, left fans and pundits questioning the gameplan imposed by his team. Ngannou, curiously, opted not to launch a staunch defence of Lopez and MMA Factory.

‘When Francis didn’t win the belt against Stipe Miocic, I got blast,’ Lopez said. ‘Okay, people was killing me. People was just ripping me out. 

‘I was sad because… you have a lot of fighters coming out and saying “I’m very sorry, I let you down my coach.” And then you feel like okay. And I had this guy try to hide behind what people were saying.’ 

Shortly after his title defeat by Miocic, Ngannou left MMA Factory for Eric Nicksick’s Xtreme Couture in the United States, leaving Lopez to lick his wounds in Paris.

Ngannou was ill-prepared for a grappling-heavy contest and came in for huge criticism

Yet he would not have to dwell for too long, as he had another hugely exciting heavyweight prospect under his wing in Gane to put all his focus into.  

The 31-year-old. like his former team-mate Ngannou, rapidly scaled the UFC ladder, albeit in less noteworthy fashion than the Cameroonian. But his silky smooth skills were unheard of among the heavyweights, leaving many onlookers feeling that the Frenchman was destined to rub shoulders with the big players in the division.

Unsurprisingly, then, comparisons with Ngannou were made and fans lapped up leaked footage of the pair during their days as sparring partners which, much to the Cameroonian’s frustrations, appeared to show Gane getting the upper hand over the Predator.

‘When I saw that footage, my first reaction was laughing. Because I know exactly what happened at those training sessions,’ Ngannou said.

His coach, Fernand Lopez (left) was blamed, and Ngannou did little to defend his trainer

Ngannou subsequently left MMA Factory for Xtreme Couture in the United States in 2018

‘It’s about to make him look better and make me look bad, to prove that he’s the man.’ 

Lopez, however, insists that the footage does not fully favour his charge, and that there is more unearthed tape that would cast Ngannou in a negative light.  

‘Nobody used that video in order to try to make him look bad or make him look good,’ Lopez stressed. 

‘I didn’t even think the footage was in Ciryl’s advantage to be honest with you. We can see in the video that a couple of times he got caught by Francis’ uppercut, so I don’t know what the big deal is with this.’ 

While Ngannou’s grudge is mostly aimed at Lopez, he made it clear in no uncertain terms that his ill-will extended to Gane and any other fighter associated with MMA Factory during a frosty exchange at UFC 268. 

The heavyweight rivals were both in attendance at the event at Madison Square Garden, with Gane and Lopez supporting MMA Factory team-mate Nassourdine Imavov for his fight against Edmen Shahbazyan.

Since then, Lopez has put all of his focus into Gane, a rising heavyweight prospect in the UFC

Footage of Gane and Lopez has since been leaked, much to the Cameroonian’s frustrations

Following Imavov’s victory of his middleweight rival, the MMA Factory group were backstage when the Cameroonian was filmed walking towards them. 

Rather than acknowledging his old coach and training partners, the heavyweight champion gave the group the cold shoulder. 

‘Why? Just why? It was not necessary,’ Gane said of the incident. ‘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.’

At UFC 268, Ngannou showed that his ill-will extended to Gane after blanking him in New York

Gane was with Lopez when Ngannou snubbed the pair, which frustrated the heavyweight

Ngannou has made it clear in no uncertain terms that he views Saturday night’s contest as more than just business. 

When discussing his UFC future – which looks precarious at best – the Predator said that he was willing to accept less than his worth because of his ‘personal’ animosity with Gane and Lopez.

‘I took this fight for a personal reason, and I want to make sure that regardless, even if it’s unfair, I have been wrongly treated, I can make my case to say I have completed the eight fights. But no, I will not fight for $500,000, $600,000 any more.’

The rivalry that started on friendly terms in Paris will finally be settled in uncompromising fashion in California. It should, barring any controversy, allow Ngannou and Gane – with Lopez at his side – to close this chapter and go their separate ways once and for all.

Gane said that the snub was disrespectful to those that helped Ngannou train in Paris

The four-year rivalry will finally come to an end in California between the former team-mates

Yet, as far as Lopez is concerned, there are overriding regrets that may prove irreconcilable.   

‘I do regret where things are between us, our story was actually very beautiful,’ he admitted.

‘I have a bunch of other students that I have fallen out with in the past and we’re still friends and still call each other.

‘But because of what’s said in some media, I don’t like this, it makes me looks bitter – makes me look like someone who will not let Ngannou go. 

‘I am not a bitter guy… Ciryl is the best fighter, the best mindset, the cooler guy – why the hell would I be jealous?’ 

 ‘Francis Ngannou has a lot of fans and his fans look at me like a guy who is bitter and who is bad for his career. I am not here to do that. I hate that.’ 

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