The headlining pair of UFC 265 make quite the odd couple.
Derrick Lewis is beloved for his off-the-cuff, wry sense of humor. Rarely one to take anything seriously, Lewis is one of MMA’s unique characters.
Ciryl Gane? The French heavyweight is soft-spoken. Professional. The straight man, if Lewis and Gane were a comedy duo.
They’re not. Rather, the pair collide in an interim heavyweight fight atop this Saturday’s PPV in Houston, right in Lewis’ back yard. “The Black Beast” was his usual sardonic self at Thursday’s pre-fight press conference. Asked what he had to do to make it to the next level, after coming up short in a title shot a few years back against Daniel Cormier, Lewis responded by saying “just train harder this time around. Sh*t, I gotta represent Houston this time.”
Was he concerned about anything Gane brought to the table? “Nah, I’m not concerned with nothing he’s got.”
Lewis did admit to a bit of pressure, mind you. “Of course there’s a little pressure, because Houston never had a heavyweight champion before. So I want to be the first one, I want to make history, and it gotta go down.”
Why take the fight against Gane, when Lewis had already been assured the next shot at undisputed champion Francis Ngannou? Because, well, Lewis is Lewis. More accurately, he stated that “it don’t matter who it is. They all gonna end the same way, looking up at them lights.”
Gane as well admitted to a bit of nervousness heading into the fight. “Wow, I’m a little bit nervous. That’s good, that’s my first time, but I’m okay with it.”
He’s taken criticism from many, including Lewis himself, regarding his lack of finishes in his past couple of performances. Asked if he felt the need to go out and get a stoppage on Saturday, Gane observed that “some people like this style, but for me, it’s really not my style. When you look at guys like [Floyd] Mayweather or some fighter like this, nobody talks like that. But I’m a young fighter, I’m going do [it] my way, and people are going to like me like I am.”
“It is a big opportunity for me. I’m a young guy, I have a young career, the UFC put me on the headline,” he later stated. “I want to do this for me, for my country, for my team, and for my family, for my fans. I want to do my best for these guys.”
While Gane did admit to some nerves, going into the fight as the favorite despite being in Lewis’ back yard in Houston adds “no pressure,” he added. “Every time [Gane fought], I got a challenge in my young career. Every time.” Fighting more experienced fighters have left Gane feeling “okay with this situation.”
How okay, and who overcomes their nerves, will be known come Saturday night.
UFC 265 takes place Saturday, August 7 at the Toyota Center in Houston, TX. The main card airs live via PPV (exclusively on ESPN+ in the U.S.).