UFC President Dana White has made the bold claim that Derrick Lewis and Ciryl Gane are “the two best heavyweights in the world” ahead of their matchup at UFC 265, and heavyweight champ Francis Ngannou was listening.
Lewis and Gane will face off this Saturday in Houston, Texas for the heavyweight interim title. Many were surprised—including heavyweight champ Francis Ngannou—when the bout was announced in June, only months after “Le Predator” was crowned divisional champ.
Ngannou’s team was in “complete shock” over the move, which came despite Dana White regularly stating that the Cameroonian’s first title defense would be a rematch with Lewis.
The interim title bout will be Lewis’ second attempt at capturing UFC gold after losing to Daniel Cormier for the heavyweight belt in 2018. “The Black Beast” has since worked his way up the division and is now on a four-fight win-streak, having earned decisions over Blagoy Ivanov and Ilir Latifi, and more recently, finishes against Aleksei Oleinik and Curtis Blaydes.
Gane earned his shot at interim gold by soundly defeating Alexander Volkov in his last fight. The Frenchman is undefeated in nine MMA bouts since turning pro just three years ago. Six of his wins have come in the UFC, including against Jairzinho Rozenstruik and former champ Junior Dos Santos.
Dana White Says Two Best HW’s Competing At UFC 265, Likens Bout To Boxing Unification
After being passed over for UFC 265 and having an interim title fight arranged so soon into his reign, it’s fair to say that Francis Ngannou is perhaps the most perennially overlooked fighter on the UFC roster. Prior to becoming champ, the 34-year-old was never offered an interim title fight but instead was forced to wait for the protracted Miocic-Cormier trilogy to play out before receiving a title shot.
Now, “Le Predator” has had to endure yet another snub from Dana White. Speaking to MMA Junkie following the UFC 265 weigh-ins on Friday, the UFC President turned the fight promoter dial up to 11 by declaring Gane and Lewis are the best heavyweights in the world—Ngannou’s achievements in the division notwithstanding.
“This interim title is awesome,” said White. “You have a guy who’s undefeated and a guy who beat the champion. You have the two best heavyweights in the world for sure fighting for the title. And what happens is when they fight Francis, it’s like the old days of the IBF vs. the WBC champion, and you unify the belt. That’s exactly how I look at it.”
“Pissed Off” Francis Ngannou Says He Deserves Respect
In an interview on Unlocking the Cage with Jimmy Smith, the heavyweight champ clapped back at White. Ngannou rubbished the idea that the interim title bout is about unifying the heavyweight division, and that it instead devalues his championship belt.
“I think this fight is a fight that (the UFC) was supposed to make,” said Ngannou. “My only problem with this is trying to disvalue my title…I heard something today like, ‘Oh, it’s gonna be like the IBF and WBC unified title.’ I’m like, no, there’s not a unified title. It’s one promotion. It’s one belt. It’s the UFC belt. It’s not like some belt gonna have a different name, or a Bellator or PFL coming to challenge the UFC. Then, we will talk about unified belt. I was there expecting to fight, and then they just come up with some kind of interim title? That was very surprising because, in the past year, we’ve been expecting an interim title since Stipe wasn’t active, and they didn’t even consider that at all. They (didn’t) want to talk about it.”
Naturally, Ngannou feels unappreciated by the UFC, saying that he deserves respect for enduring the many trials on his way to becoming champion—an impressive run that saw him spectacularly KO the best in the division.
“At this point, basically, regarding my last run, I deserve at least some respect as a UFC champion,” continued Ngannou. “I’ve been down. I know my low time. And I faced it. I faced the challenge. I (made) my way all the way up here. I kept all the frustration in the past two years. I fought twice. I do this for a living, but I have fought two times in the past two years.”
“But at the end of the day, nobody cares. It’s my shit. I gotta figure it out on my own. Then, I get through all that and get here, and they make it (seem) like, ‘Oh, it wasn’t a big deal,’ you know? Like, ‘Oh, he’s the champion but whatever. Yeah, those (types) of things is kind of what pissed me off.”
What do you think? Should Dana White put more respect on Francis Ngannou’s name?