Francis Ngannou, Jon Jones and the UFC heavyweight title confusion

The UFC’s decision to create an interim title for Ciryl Gane and Derrick Lewis’ fight at UFC 265 has added to the already confusing state the heavyweight division is in

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Ahead of Derrick Lewis and Ciryl Gane’s interim title fight at UFC 265 this weekend, the UFC heavyweight division is in somewhat of a muddle.

The interim title fight was booked just three months after Francis Ngannou knocked out Stipe Miocic to become the new UFC heavyweight champion. It was also booked 48 hours after Gane defeated Alexander Volkov in a fight not seen as a title eliminator.

UFC president Dana White stated earlier in the year that Lewis would be next in line for the hard-hitting Ngannou but he instead booked ‘The Black Beast’ against the undefeated Gane.

Historically, interim titles have been created when a champion is unable to defend his title due to an injury. Ngannou was fit and ready to compete and so he was more than surprised when an interim title fight was booked.

Ngannou’s manager Marquel Martin told ESPN of the booking: “This comes as a complete shock. To make an interim title so soon, if you look at the history of this division, it comes as a surprise. We hope to get clarity and figure out something with the UFC soon.”

Ngannou avenged his 2018 loss to Miocic to win the UFC heavyweight title


Zuffa LLC)

White fired back at the “incompetent” Martin stating he was “full of s***” and that Ngannou should find a new manager. Martin claimed that Ngannou’s team asked for a fight with Lewis in September but White did not want to wait until then.

“Complete shock with your decision after we said September was good for us? Complete shock that you guys made threats after less than 3 months after you all were aware,” Martin replied.

“Complete shock after you KNEW why Francis needed more time. That is correct. I know you’re passionate but you trying to discredit my integrity when I’ve been nothing but respectful to you, Hunter, and your entire staff? Speaks more about you than it does me.”

But long before Ngannou and Lewis were in talks to fight each other, ‘The Predator’ was linked to a much bigger fight against pound-for-pound No.1 Jon Jones.

An ongoing pay dispute between the UFC and Jones has meant the former UFC light-heavyweight champion has not fought since narrowly defeating Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 in February 2020.

Since that fight, Jones has been bulking up to prepare for his highly-anticipated heavyweight debut. And when Ngannou defeated Miocic earlier this year all signs pointed towards a mega-fight between the two.

White was by no means interested in entertaining Jones pay demands, especially when the UFC president claimed that Jones wanted $30 million to fight Ngannou.

Jones fired back at White’s claims stating: “I never discussed wanting $30m with you or Hunter (Campbell). Just wondering where you heard that number? Is someone speaking with you on my behalf or…”

Things would escalate even further when Jones grew tired of White’s games and requested his release from the UFC.

“Please just cut me already. You would rather have me around and treat me like s***. I swear the UFC industry has been nothing but depressing for me… I feel like my wings are being clipped,” Jones wrote.

“Just f****** let me go. What type of weird s*** is this, obviously the boss hates me. Let me take my business elsewhere.”

Talking to celebrity star Steve-O before his feud with the UFC went public, Jones made his thoughts clear on the current state of UFC fighter pay.

Will we ever see a fight between Ngannou and Jones? Comment below

“I’m not asking for anything outrageous. I know we’re in a pandemic and I know when you’re a multi-millionaire and you’re asking for more it makes you seem like this greedy person and I’m aware of all of this,” Jones said.

“But I’m also aware that I have the voice and the platform to make change. Most of the guys who are doing the absolute worst are not in the position where they can say publicly, ‘I have a second job, I’m borrowing money from my parents.’

“I know so many guys that are living in the Jackson’s MMA gym because they can’t afford to live in their own apartment, and they’re UFC fighters. So this is sad.

“If I have to have a bad relationship with Dana (White), sit out for two years, three years to bring light to what’s happening, then these are the things people remember you for more than winning belts. To stand up for the younger fighters.”

According to MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani, the UFC were adamant about having the Texas native Lewis fight at UFC 265 because the promotion signed a multi-event partnership with Toyota Center in June.

After talks with Ngannou’s team broke down for the August 7 pay-per-view event, the UFC quickly booked Gane after his recent win to face Lewis for the interim title.

Lewis propelled himself into title contention when he pulled off an upset win against Curtis Blaydes in February, winning by first round KO. The win extended Lewis’ unbeaten run to four and tied him with Vitor Belfort for most knockouts in UFC history (12).

The experienced kickboxer Gane made his UFC debut in 2019 and has since won six consecutive fights in the promotion. In his last three fights, Gane has defeated the former champion Junior Dos Santos and two top contenders in Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Volkov.

But regardless of which man has his hand raised on Saturday, he may well be only the third best heavyweight in the world.

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