It has come straight from Dana White on multiple occasions that the next heavyweight championship bout would be a rematch between Francis Ngannou and Derrick Lewis. Ngannou’s public reply to this expectation was that he could care less about Derrick Lewis and only wanted to fight Jon Jones for his first title defense. With ESPN reporting this sudden booking of an interim title fight, it appears the UFC has decided not to wait on Ngannou any longer.
ESPN also provided the following statement from Ngannou’s agent, Marquel Martin, who was just as surprised to hear today’s news as the general public:
“This comes as a complete shock. To make an interim title so soon, if you look at the history of this division, it comes as a surprise. We hope to get clarity and figure out something with the UFC soon,” Martin’s statement reads.
Aside from Ngannou holding out for Jones possibly being the cause for this move by the UFC, there is also a chance that Ngannou could be nursing some injuries and will be unavailable for a while longer. This also could be a simple case of scheduling conflicts and the UFC desperately in search of a main event for the UFC 265 pay-per-view.
Whatever the reason, to Martin’s point, Francis Ngannou did only become champion three months ago at UFC 260, so this is no doubt a blindsiding decision by the UFC on many fronts.
Ironically, Lewis and Gane both expressed a mutual interest in fighting one another back in March. Little did they know that they would get their wish with the added prize of an interim heavyweight title on the line. Gane just defeated Alexander Volkov last Saturday (June 26) at UFC Vegas 30 and insisted that he would sit out for a title shot. His sit-out lasted less than 48 hours.
Derrick Lewis is currently the #2-ranked heavyweight in the world, and Ciryl Gane is one spot behind him at #3. Stipe Miocic, the #1 contender and consensus HW GOAT, is also conspicuously absent from this title pairing.
When we learn more about the impetus of this sudden interim heavyweight title bout, we’ll bring you the scoop right here on MMANews.com!