There’s no question that Ciryl Gane is one of a kind.
The 31-year-old heavyweight picked up MMA in 2018, made his UFC debut with just three professional fights, and he’s never looked back since. Gane, now 10-0, recently defeated Derrick Lewis at UFC 265 to claim the interim UFC heavyweight title and solidify his position as the next to challenge Francis Ngannou for the undisputed title.
Gane’s progression in the UFC might have seemed fast to some, but that’s not how the French heavyweight has felt about his two-year journey in the UFC.
“I’m thankful because I didn’t feel like I was in a rush. But the matchmakers helped me keep fighting and I was ready for it,” Gane told UFC.com. “Now we are here just after three years of MMA and now we are at the top. Of course, I’m proud of that and now I’m 10-0 in MMA. I don’t want to be the guy that says ‘I’m the best, I’m the G.O.A.T.’ I don’t want to be that guy, but we’ve definitely accomplished something.”
Winning the interim title accomplished three main goals for Gane. First and foremost, his success has helped him provide for his family, which welcomed a beautiful baby girl to the world just three days after he defeated Lewis.
Ciryl Gane Octagon Interview | UFC 265: Lewis vs Gane
Ciryl Gane Octagon Interview | UFC 265: Lewis vs Gane
“I’m not doing this sport for me. My first mission is to take care of my family. I want to be a great husband and great father who puts a roof over their heads and food on their plates,” Gane said. “I’m just feeling lucky, and my daughter was born three days after I arrived on the flight back from UFC 265. I feel so lucky in my life and I’m just happy for that and my life is just full of love.”
The second biproduct of Gane’s success is the impact that he’s having on the MMA scene in France. Nowadays, people are recognizing “Bon Gamin” when he’s out in public and he plans on taking time to be cordial with each fan in hopes that he can inspire others to develop a passion for MMA.
“I take the time for fans because I want people to see that I’m just myself and that MMA is something that they can do, too. This is really big, and I can feel how important this is to my country,” Gane said. “The sport is very young in France, and I feel like I’m making a difference and it’s going to be great for the future of MMA in France.”
The final accomplishment was bringing the belt back to the MMA Factory and his head coach Fernand Lopez.
“This is amazing for my coach because everyone knows the story of him and Francis and how he unfortunately moved away and now, he’s with another gym. Fernand was really close to a belt and now I’ve done it for him,” Gane said. “It’s a present for him. He told me when I started MMA that I would do something special in MMA. He did a lot for me and for my family and now we’ve done this together. It’s beautiful.”
When you sit down and connect all the dots between Ngannou and Gane, it seems almost too good to be true. Ngannous started his MMA journey at the MMA Factory under Lopez and trained on occasion with Gane while he made a name for himself as one of the top heavyweight contenders in the UFC.
Then Ngannou moved to Las Vegas and Gane started his climb, gaining more experience and displaying that he was a prospect that was going to be a contender sooner rather than later. Gane would headline his first UFC event in February, while Ngannou would knock out Stipe Miocic to become the UFC heavyweight champion just a month later. Ngannou couldn’t compete right away, which opened the door for Gane to make up some ground on his former training partner.
Gane put his foot on the gas and defeated Alexander Volkov and Derrick Lewis within the span of 42 days to become the interim title holder. The momentum that Gane created by defeating Junior Dos Santos, Jairzinho Rozenstruik, Volkov and Lewis in just eight months sets him up perfectly to face Ngannou.
“I always knew that I was going to take the right amount of time. Derrick Lewis was the last step,” Gane said. “It wasn’t a bad idea to do the interim belt because I wanted to take my time and do everything I needed to do to be ready for Francis.”
The newly minted interim champ took a few weeks off after defeating Lewis to spend time with his family but just made it back into training camp this week. He added something new to his regimen that he hasn’t done since starting MMA – strength and conditioning.
“This is the first time in my career I’ve ever done strength and conditioning. Francis is a big strong guy, I’ve felt this, and I move so well that I know that if I can get even stronger this will be a good thing for me,” Gane said. “I can’t wait to see myself in three or four months. I want to put on a couple kilos, and I think this will help me for Francis.”
Gane is hoping that can fight Ngannou early next year in France, which hasn’t yet hosted a UFC event. He believes this would be the perfect opportunity to show the quality of the MMA Factory, coach Lopez and other fighters from France.
“Man, could you think of this fight in Paris? That would be amazing I know how big it would be for MMA here in France,” Gane said. “I’m just so thankful that this is where I am at. I’m getting ready for this fight, and I’ll be at my best.”
Gane knows that the narrative of ‘teammates turned opponents’ is going to be a common one when the two finally meet in the Octagon, but he’s not going to let any of that affect him.
“It’s a little bit because we were born in the same gym and with the same coach, so it’s a little strange, but you’ll see because it’s the truth, I’m OK with this,” Gane said of his looming title unification bout with Ngannou. “This is just a sport to me. I’m going to do this fight. This is a big opportunity and a big test for me also.
“I’m coming for the real belt.”