Ciryl Gane Wins UFC Interim Heavyweight Title, Sets Up ‘Beautiful’ Fight with Francis Ngannou

Gane is now the UFC’s interim heavyweight champion.

Derrick Lewis kicks Ciryl Gane during their Heavyweight bout.

Hulking Frenchman Ciryl Gane earned his title in the main event of UFC 265 on Saturday night in Houston, Texas, stopping hometown hero Derrick Lewis with a volley of third-round punches.

It was a masterful performance from Gane who, after going 13-0 in Muay Thai competition, is now 10-0 in MMA. The French striking specialist, who moves like a much lighter man, confounded Lewis early with his footwork, volume, and remarkable use of range. He was soundly in control of the action of the fight from beginning to end.

Gane’s blowout win impressed just about everybody who watched, including UFC President Dana White.

“He’s a big, powerful, badass heavyweight who moves like a middleweight,” White said at the UFC 265 post-fight press conference. “You saw tonight what he was able to do to Derrick Lewis. Completely shut him down. I don’t know specific numbers but [he threw] hundreds [of strikes] and Derrick was like three [strikes].

“He completely shut him down, put on a clinic, looked good doing it, made it look easy against a guy who can turn the lights out with one punch. This kid’s super talented.”

The UFC attached interim championship stakes to Gane and Lewis’ UFC 265 fight because Francis Ngannou, the division’s undisputed champion, is currently embroiled in a heated contract dispute with the promotion. Ahead of the event, the prevailing opinion was that an interim title wasn’t necessary—Ngannou has only been out of action for a few months—but it does add some oomph to a seemingly inevitable Gane vs. Ngannou fight: It can now be billed as a champion versus champion showdown.

There are plenty of other reasons to be excited for that matchup, too.

Gane and Lewis, who both got their start at the MMA Factory in Paris, are former training partners. While they don’t seem to have any animosity toward one another at this stage, their familiarity with one another adds a very interesting dynamic to their potential matchup.

White has also suggested the fight could occur in the pair’s native France, where MMA was only recently legalized, and the UFC has yet to promote an event.

“Him and Francis is a badass heavyweight fight,” White said.

“Like he said earlier, we’ve been working a long time on getting France,” he added later. “France is open now and we just got a TV deal in France. Here we are. What you always want to do when you either build fighters or build fights or put on fights is you want to have the best possible guys fighting each other that you possibly can. It doesn’t get any better than this. You couldn’t write it. You couldn’t script it. F*cking Vince (McMahon) couldn’t have wrote a better script for this whole thing. It’s beautiful.”

Ngannou, for his part, seems ready for Gane’s challenge—though his dispute with the UFC remains a hurdle.