Few athletes have emerged from a year and half of pandemic chaos quite like UFC’s number three-ranked heavyweight Ciryl Gane.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, Gane will set his sights on claiming a first UFC title, making history as the first-ever French-born athlete to do so.
“It was little bit hard for me the last year. A lot of fights were canceled and I had some injuries,” Gane told Arab News, adding that his mental focus never wavered. “But look today where we are, so everything is OK.”
Gane, with a record of nine straight wins and fighting out of Paris, returns to the famous Octagon in Houston, Texas, for UFC 265, where he will face number two-ranked Derrick Lewis for the interim heavyweight championship.
His last win, in June against Alexander Volkov, is still fresh in his memory.
“I’m really proud,” he said. “I had a really great performance against Volkov, because usually he likes to put on all the pressure, but I made the pressure in this fight and I won all the rounds. It was a great performance. I’m really happy and really proud, and this is good for my team, too.”
The fight will represent the shortest turnaround of his MMA career, which he began only three years ago. He has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the heavyweight division, inspired by dynamic victories over Junior Dos Santos, Don’Tale Mayes and most recently, Volkov.
Gane now looks to show off his ever-improving skill set by defeating Lewis to set up a future clash with champion and former training partner Francis Ngannou — not that he will admit to looking that far ahead.
“I’m just looking to the fight against Lewis,” Gane said. “In my career, I’ve done this every time. I’ll just focus on Sunday. I’m focused on this fight, and I want to win this fight — that’s it. After that everybody will ask. Maybe it’s going to be Francis. But first, I must win this fight.”
Houston’s own Lewis, with record of 25-7, will aim to put on a show for his hometown fans and finally wrap UFC gold around his waist. The record holder for most knockouts in UFC heavyweight history with 12, Lewis proved himself as one of the best in the world with a victory over current champion Francis Ngannou, as well as iconic wins over Volkov, Travis Browne and Curtis Blaydes.
After a tumultuous year, Gane is looking to take a breather after UFC 265.
“After this fight I will take a little bit of a rest, because I’ve done a lot since the beginning of last year. I’m waiting for a second daughter and it’s going to be hard to train while having two children,” he said. “So I’m going to take little bit of rest, that is my plan.”
Gane, who had a bout in Abu Dhabi canceled last year, is hoping that in the future he will get the chance to show of his skills to UFC fans in the Middle East, for a few reasons.
“Of course, because the weather is really great,” he said. “Not only because its close to my country, but I like the people, I have good feelings with people in the Middle East, so yes, why not?
“I want to fight everywhere in the world.”