Francis Ngannou determined to keep his focus ahead of Ciryl Gane showdown

The pair meet in a unification bout in Anaheim this weekend.

Damian Spellman
Friday 21 January 2022 16:11
Francis Ngannou will defend his UFC heavyweight title against Ciryl Gane (Gregory Payan/AP/PA)
Francis Ngannou will defend his UFC heavyweight title against Ciryl Gane (Gregory Payan/AP/PA)

Francis Ngannou has warned Ciryl Gane’s camp that their failure to distract him ahead of their UFC 270 showdown is a “massive problem” for them.

Heavyweight champion Ngannou and Gane meet in an eagerly-anticipated unification bout at the Honda Center in Anaheim during the early hours of Sunday morning with their rivalry having been enhanced during the build-up.

The pair sparred briefly during their time together at the MMA Factory before Cameroonian Ngannou parted with coach Fernand Lopez and headed for the United States and a tension between the two camps has been exacerbated by leaked training videos and an apparent – and rejected – attempt by Lopez to build bridges.

Asked if the noise around the fight had been a distraction, Ngannou replied: “Well, it’s not easy, but I know that that’s their strategy, that’s exactly what they are bringing to make it be a distraction to me.

“They want me to be distracted, which is a good thing because they know that Francis focused is a problem for them, a massive problem.”

Ngannou is preparing to defend his title for the first time having knocked out his last five opponents and sees the challenge ahead as another important step in his career.

He said: “Every step is very important for the process. When you’re a prospect, it’s another step; when you’re a contender, when you’re a challenger, when you’re a champion, when you’re a defending champion, who knows what will be tomorrow?

“It’s like you’re building and every block is important to you.”

Ngannou was in far from conciliatory mood when told that Lopez has likened him to a “son”, and bristled at his claims that he had developed bad habits during his time in America.

He said: “I have bad habits? That’s made me become a champion. Yes, definitely. Then I should be having more bad habits, then I will be champion over and over, right?

“Maybe bad habits are training well, improving, winning fights, becoming champion. Yes, that’s bad habits.”

Ngannou was also keen to point out that he and unbeaten interim title-holder Gane may have trained together in the past, but did not know each other well, and the atmosphere at the pre-fight press conference became decidedly frosty as attention turned to the leaked video.

The champion said: “We trained together a couple of times – I would say maybe six times back in January 2019, so I think it’s not enough to be saying we know each other so well basically three years later.”

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