Ngannou, Gane verbally spar over memory of actual sparring

    ANAHEIM, Calif. – For Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane, a lot of their beef might come down to a matter of semantics.

    For example, Ngannou said Thursday he never was teammates with Gane – but that he already had moved from France to Las Vegas, and merely was passing back through MMA Factory in Paris when he happened to do some sparring with Gane. They trained, but they weren’t teammates.

    Similarly, they have a difference of opinion – and perhaps a difference of recollection – of a claim Ngannou (16-3 MMA, 11-2 UFC) made earlier this week that he knocked out Gane (10-0 MMA, 7-0 UFC) with a kick when they sparred.

    “He was knocked out, probably, because he doesn’t remember,” Ngannou said.

    “This is not the truth,” Gane said in response. “We did some sparring – and it was really great sparring from Francis. It was a beautiful left kick. The problem with Francis is he doesn’t like technical sparring – (he likes) to make power. … You gave me the left kick. You hurt me. You see? I’m honest – you hurt me. You hurt me. But you didn’t knock me down.”

    The two sparred back and forth verbally at Thursday’s UFC 270 pre-fight news conference with UFC president Dana White in the middle.

    Saturday, Ngannou, the UFC’s heavyweight champion, meets Gane, the interim champ, in the main event at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., to unify their belts. The unbeaten Gane is a slight betting favorite. He has the pair’s former coach, Fernand Lopez, in his corner. Ngannou now is with Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas after leaving Lopez’s gym several years ago.

    When challenged to look him in the eyes and say he knocked him out with the kick, Ngannou ultimately said he can’t prove it because he doesn’t have the video tape – but said he respects Gane.

    And Gane said he’d like to see Ngannou respect him, then, publicly in front of the crowd.

    Their backstory – be it as friends, teammates, or merely two heavyweights who trained a few times – has turned into a solid selling point for the UFC. And White said that will be a big deal come Saturday.

    “This whole story is a great story. But the most important thing is no matter who hit who, who did what, who doesn’t like who, on Saturday night, the two biggest, baddest heavyweights in the world are going to fight, and all the questions will be answered. That’s all that matters.”

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