Francis Ngannou vows to knock out Ciryl Gane in UFC 270 title bout - having done so before

Heavyweight champion takes on former training partner, and interim belt-holder, this weekend

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UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou says he has already knocked out upcoming opponent Ciryl Gane – albeit accidentally – and predicts he will do the same inside two rounds of their title clash at UFC 270.

The former training partners go head-to-head in the main bout in Anaheim, California early on Sunday, one of two championship clashes in the promotion’s opening pay-per-view of 2022.

Ngannou, 16-3 in professional MMA, knows the undefeated interim belt-holder well having trained together in the past at MMA Factory in Paris - although he suggests not as often as reported.

However, footage emerged this month from that time of Gane seemingly getting the best of Ngannou during a sparring session, something that appears to have irked the Cameroon star.

Speaking to media late on Wednesday, Ngannou said: “It wasn’t sparring footage. It was a clip of the sparring footage. Because the footage doesn’t look that good.”

Competing for the first time since defeating Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight crown in March, Ngannou told the UFC’s “Countdown” show released last week that he in fact knocked out Gane in one of their training sessions.

Asked on Wednesday to explain, he said: “Yes, I knocked him out. A high kick, left high kick. That knockout wasn’t a voluntary 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.

“Personally, it’s not something that I feel proud of. I don’t walk around and feel all tough because I knocked my sparring partner out or down or whatever. Usually stuff like that happens in training, but it’s always an accident because we’re committed to taking care of our partner.”

Francis Ngannou during a press conference for UFC 270. AFP

Now rivals, Ngannou will most likely have to be at his best on Sunday to inflict Gane’s first professional loss. The Frenchman is 10-0 in MMA, while he has won all seven appearances in the UFC. In August, he defeated Derrick Lewis to become the interim champion.

Still, on Wednesday, Ngannou said matter-of-factly: “My prediction is a knockout in two rounds.”

Rebounding from successive losses in 2018 to put together a five-fight win streak, Ngannou is currently understood to be in a contract dispute with the UFC. Sunday’s fight represents the final bout on his current deal.

But Ngannou, who has finishes in all 16 pro wins, told reporters: “First of all, I don’t really like to talk about it, but yes, it’s going to be a relief to get this over, and I don’t have to talk about it. I have been trying [to ignore it]. Before I got here, I didn’t think about it until you picked up your mic.

“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 [expletive] or ex-wife, I don’t know. People deal with stuff, so you have to figure out your own [expletive] and do what you have to do.”

In Sunday's other championship bout, flyweight champion Brandon Moreno defends his title in the trilogy clash with former belt-holder Deiveson Figueiredo.

Updated: January 20, 2022, 7:21 AM