Defeating one of the greatest fighters in the history of MMA, to become the first Frenchman to win a heavyweight UFC champion’s belt, such is the immense challenge that awaits Ciryl Gane against Jon Jones, Saturday in Las Vegas.
“Good kid”, his nickname, would have liked revenge against Francis Ngannou, who had narrowly inflicted his first defeat, remaining the only one in 12 fights, a year ago in Anaheim (California). But the Cameroonian has since decided to leave the octagon for boxing, making his title vacant at the same time.
For his second attempt at winning a title, in the most important mixed martial arts league, Gane, who won one, only interim in 2021, thanks to his victory against Derrick Lewis, however did not really lose in the exchange. Because the adversary who stands in front of him is as prestigious as he is formidable.
Aged 35, Jones collects records: longest reign in history (1,501 days), most title defenses (11), longest unbeaten streak (18), all in the mid- heavy. His only defeat in 28 fights resulted from a disqualification in 2009, against Mark Hamill whom he nevertheless largely dominated. So much so that he “considers himself undefeated in the cage”.
– Physical transformation –
Gane knows the mountain he has to topple. “It is undoubtedly the biggest fight of my career and I also think for French MMA”, he summarizes to AFP.
The 32-year-old native of La Roche-sur-Yon recovered well from his defeat against Ngannou, with a resounding victory by KO at the expense of Australian Tai Tuivasa, in Paris, in September 2022, during of the first event organized in France by the UFC. By fracturing his left hand in the process, which then forced him to have surgery.
“The hand is fine, I let it rest for three months. And when I started typing with it again, I had no problems. No bad feeling,” he says.
Jones, whose champion aura has waned since 2015, with a record of drugs, drunk driving, domestic violence and doping, has been absent from the octagon for the past three years. And for his return, he decided to move up the category, taking about twenty kilos to give himself the means to impose himself among the heavyweights.
The question now is how much this spectacular physical transformation, after such a long absence, can affect his speed of execution. His mobility and stamina may not be as they used to be, but his power gain should serve his ground combat technique, where he announces he wants to finish off Gane.
– “Outsider, I’m fine with it” –
Who expects it with a firm footing: “he has a past as a wrestler before MMA, it’s in his DNA. But many underestimate me in the fight… Will he do that? I don’t think he will try to vary, he is a versatile person”.
“He doesn’t really have a weak point. He has good management of the cage, of the opponent. He has very good tactical intelligence, but so do I. I have my strengths, there will be my + footwork + (footwork), I move a lot, more than him. And then it will be his first experience with the heavyweights, so it can also be to my advantage”, he underlines.
In the heart of the T-Mobile Arena, Gane knows that he will not start as the favorite against the one who is considered the “GOAT” (the best of all time) by many observers, including Dana White, the boss of the UFC, which presented it thus at a press conference on Thursday.
“It makes sense. But if Jones has agreed to fight me, it’s because I deserve it and I intend to be up to it. Outsider, I’ve been one since my debut, I get used to it. The pressure is not not on my shoulders”, quietly replied the Vendéen, determined to be the first to bend Jones on a regular basis.