Ciryl Gane must beat Francis Ngannou to earn ‘baddest’ label

    ANAHEIM, Calif. – Ciryl Gane holds a piece of the UFC heavyweight championship, but he believes there is more work to do before he can be considered the division’s top fighter.

    In the main event of UFC 270, Gane (10-0 MMA, 7-0 UFC) will attempt to unify the heavyweight title when he faces former training partner Francis Ngannou. Despite praise Gane has received for his performances thus far in the UFC, he has one more mission to accomplish before he will accept being considered the baddest man on the planet, a title that usually accompanies the heavyweight champion of the world.

    “I’m the interim champion. I’m not the champion,” Gane said during Wednesday’s UFC 270 media day. “I’m not the best guy. I’m not the baddest guy in the world. Today, it’s Francis. If I want to be this guy, I must beat Francis.”

    Gane acknowledges that holding the interim belt does mean something in the larger landscape, but it’s not enough to be satisfied as he has larger goals of bringing more recognition to his home country of France. In order to do that, he must take care of business Saturday evening. He hopes that successfully unifying the heavyweight title will bring even more notoriety to the athletes who want to make their name in France.

    “I feel the people are really proud about that – this is not the champion, but this is interim champion,” Gane said. “This is something; this is not nothing, you see? This is special too. …This is something new in my country. I want to bring more media. I want to make the fighters shine in my country. We have a lot of styles in MMA, kickboxing, any sport. I want to make them shine.”

    Getting past a familiar face is the first task, though. Heavyweight champ Ngannou (16-3 MMA, 11-2 UFC) and Gane used to be training partners at Factory MMA in Paris. Knowing each other as fighters is a huge aspect of the fight, but Gane is somewhat relieved they no longer share the same training grounds ahead of Saturday’s main event.

    “If Francis stayed in the gym, this would have been a little bit more complicated because we were still sparring together so we know each other,” Gane said.  “It probably would have been real different.”

    On the surface, this matchup seems like a clash of power vs. speed, but Gane believes there is more to the fight that some might be overlooking in that he too has power to accompany his speed, in addition to submission and grappling skills. These aspects of his game are perhaps why he enters Saturday evening as a -155 betting favorite, according to the lines at Tipico Sportsbook.

    While not looking past an incredibly tough task in Ngannou, Gane cannot help but deny what could lie beyond in a huge potential fight against former UFC light heavyweight king Jon Jones.

    “If I win against Francis, yes I want to fight against Jon Jones,” Gane said. “He is the next one. … If it’s possible, we’re going to do this.”


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