Anaheim, CA — The storyline heading into UFC 270, as far as it concerns Francis Ngannou, has been about seemingly everything but his fight against interim champ and former teammate Ciryl Gane.
Instead, it’s been all about his contract situation — Ngannou’s first title defense is the final fight on his UFC deal — and the falling out he had with his old gym, which he and Gane once called home together.
It’s not a situation Ngannou (16-3) is dwelling on ahead of this Saturday’s PPV card. But it’s one that, when not brought up by “The Predator” himself, is a frequent subject of interest with the media at large.
“I don’t really like to talk about it, but yes, it’s going to be a relief, to get this over. [Then] I don’t have to talk about it,” he told one reporter Wednesday, when asked at the UFC 270 media day whether it would be a relief to no longer have to address it, with the fight arriving so soon.
Ngannou, in fact, has been trying to keep those outside distractions out of his mind. To limited success, thanks to the constant barrage of questions about where he’ll fight next, and what happened between himself, his coach, and his old teammate Gane. “I’ve been trying to. I have been trying. Yes, that’s exactly what you’re doing, right? Before I get here, I wasn’t thinking about it, before you picked up your mic.”
But despite the distractions, Ngannou doesn’t feel there’s anything particularly unique about his situation. The heavyweight champion knows that numerous other fighters have had to contend with external factors heading into bouts.
“I do believe that many people deal with a lot of stuff before fights. Whether it’s a contract, or drama stuff, or some ex-girlfriend sh*t, or ex-wife, or I don’t know. People deal with stuff, so you have to figure out your own sh*t, and do what you have to do.”
One of the things Ngannou has had to deal with was the release of old sparring footage between himself and Gane. Despite the release of such footage generally being frowned upon — what happens in the gym stays in the gym — Ngannou says he wasn’t overly annoyed by it coming out.
“No, it doesn’t annoy me,” Ngannou stated. “It’s just funny, because first of all, it wasn’t sparring footage, it was a clip of sparring footage, because the sparing footage doesn’t look that good.”
And, Ngannou clarified Wednesday, correcting an Embedded episode that suggested he knocked Gane down in sparring, “I knocked him out. High kick. Left high kick. There’s a lot of reasons why that footage didn’t come out.”
That having been said, Ngannou isn’t bragging about flooring his rival in training. “Let me say this. That knockout, it was an involuntary knockout. It was in sparring, it was an accident. I didn’t intend to knock him out, I didn’t go there to knock him out. So personally, it’s not something that I would be proud of, and like walk around and feel tough because I knocked my sparring partner out, or knocked him down, or whatever. Usually, stuff like that happens in training, but it’s always an accident, because we are committed to take care of our partner.”
There will be so such commitment at UFC 270 on Saturday, however. Ngannou envisions a short night. “My prediction is a knockout under two rounds.”
After that? Perhaps a boxing match with Tyson Fury. “I don’t know, but that’s who I want it to be,” Ngannou responded when asked about a potential crossover fight. Later, he was asked what the chances of the fight happening were, out of ten. “Let’s say eight,” he replied. “Why not nine? Just to be conservative.”
Watch the full UFC 270 media day appearance from Francis Ngannou above. “The Predator” defends his title against interim champ Ciryl Gane this Saturday, January 22, 2022 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA. More coverage of Wednesday’s media day can be found below.