“Shocked” was a word launched after the UFC announced the interim heavyweight title bout between Derrick Lewis and Ciryl Gane. That reaction covered a lot of ground, and the exact word was uttered by heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou’s manager Marquel Martin after the fight was announced.
Martin’s shock set off a very heated exchange between himself and Dana White, which included White alleging that the Ngannou team knew exactly why the interim title fight was booked.
In the days following the blockbuster announcement, a report surfaced that stated the UFC insisted on having the Ngannou/Lewis fight take place on August 7 because they wanted hometown hero Derrick Lewis on to headline the Houston card, which is what he will now do opposite Gane instead.
“You Knew This Was Coming”
Speaking with MMA reporter Farrah Hannoun, Dana White would open up more about his post-announcement exchange with Ngannou’s manager as well as what went behind the decision to book an interim heavyweight title bout only three months after Ngannou captured the title.
“Yeah, I responded to his manager, but I wasn’t really talking about him,” White said in reference to Marquel Martin. “I was talking about the other guy who represents him. I really wasn’t talking about him. I was just responding to his thing where he was saying ‘We were shocked by this.’ I said that’s a bunch of bullshit. You guys aren’t shocked. I mean, we’ve been talking about this for weeks. You knew this was coming if we didn’t get a deal done.
“And it’s no different than anything else. This has happened a million times. What happens is we run a business and we put on fights every Saturday night. And we needed to do that fight in Houston. We couldn’t get the deal done, so we did it. We did an interim title fight, which absolutely makes sense.
“We’ve got Derrick Lewis, the #2-ranked guy in the world, Stipe’s #1, Stipe just lost, Derrick Lewis actually beat Francis Ngannou, and Ciryl came off that win (over Alexander Volkov) that weekend. So you got the top two guys in the world, these are the top two guys in the world, to fight for the interim championship. And when Francis is ready to go after this fight, we’ll make the fight with the winner.”
White was then asked if it was true that Ngannou’s management proposed to fight one month later in September as Martin alleges. White’s response jibes with the report of the UFC’s desire to have Derrick Lewis headline in Houston, or it could also be that the company felt they were in urgent need for a main event.
“Yeah, we needed to go on (August 7) in Houston, so that’s how it worked out,” White said curtly.
UFC 265 takes place August 7 from the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
What do you think of Dana White’s reasoning to book the interim title fight on August 7 instead of waiting one month for Ngannou to defend the official title?