Derrick Lewis will face Ciryl Gane, and not UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, for the interim heavyweight title at UFC 265 on August 7th, as first reported by ESPN’s Brett Okamoto.
The fight booking between Lewis and Gane comes just days after Gane’s win over Alexander Volkov at UFC Vegas 30, and just weeks after it appeared that Ngannou wouldn’t be able to defend his belt in August against Lewis. UFC president Dana White told Okamoto that the reason for the Lewis vs. Gane fight is the fact that Ngannou wasn’t able to fight in June or August.
The news shook up the MMA world on Monday and came as a big surprise to Ngannou’s camp, as it was anticipated that “The Predator” would fight Lewis for his first title defense later this summer or fall. Lewis rose as the top heavyweight contender amidst the stalled contract dispute between the UFC brass and former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones for him to move up in weight and with his big win over Curtis Blaydes earlier this year.
“This comes as a complete shock,” Ngannou’s agent Marquel Martin told Okamoto. “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 finally realized UFC gold after earning the belt over Stipe Miocic by knockout at UFC 260. Ngannou was originally expected to fight Jones, then Lewis, and now will hold out and apparently face the winner of Lewis vs. Gane for his next fight.
This will be the first time that the UFC’s heavyweight division has had an interim champion since Fabricio Werdum held the interim belt following his win over Mark Hunt at UFC 180. He would go on to defeat then-champion Cain Velasquez to unify the title.
What is your reaction to the latest drama atop the UFC’s heavyweight division?