UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou isn’t going to be defending his title against Derrick Lewis after all, and he’s not going to be facing UFC superstar Jon Jones next either. According to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, Ngannou doesn’t have any pending fight lined up right now, so the UFC will seek instead to crown an interim heavyweight champion. UFC president Dana White revealed to ESPN that Lewis would be facing Cyril Gane in the main event of UFC 265 on August 7 for interim gold. He also reported that Ngannou’s team was “shocked” by the UFC’s decision, and the champ later expressed that “nothing has been right here”.
Per Okamoto, Ngannou’s agent said, “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.”
Follow the Heavy on UFC Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
Ngannou Isn’t Happy About UFC’s Decision
Ngannou later offered his own complaints about the situation via social media. The UFC champion sarcastically remarked about how long he had to wait for his title shot when he was clearly the No. 1-ranked heavyweight in the world.
Ngannou posted, “I remember my interim title fight against Jairzinho… oh wait…”.
Later, Ngannou responded to ESPN’s Ariel Hewlani by pointing out that the UFC had treated him differently under similar circumstances before he was the champion.
Helwani posted, “Between June 2019 and March 2021 Ngannou fought once … for a combined 20 seconds. Couldn’t sniff an IC title shot. And now three months after he wins, and seems to be on the cusp of superstardom, he has to see an IC title fight made. Doesn’t seem right.”
Ngannou responded, “Nothing has been right here”.
The UFC’s previous heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic fought one time in each of the last three years.
ALL the latest UFC news straight to your inbox! Subscribe to the Heavy on UFC newsletter here!
UFC Wouldn’t Wait on Ngannou
According to ESPN, the UFC tried to book Ngannou vs. Lewis in June, then targeted it again for its August pay-per-view card.
But Ngannou had informed the UFC he wouldn’t be ready to compete by those dates.
Instead of waiting for Ngannou to be ready to defend his UFC heavyweight championship, which could have been as soon as September per that same report, the UFC went ahead and booked Lewis vs. Gane for the interim championship at UFC 265.
UFC 265 is set for August 7 in Houston, Texas. Former title challenger Lewis stopped Curtis Blaydes in the second round in February in his last fight, and Gane earned a unanimous decision win over Alexander Volkov over the weekend to remain undefeated.
According to Helwani, Ngannou did accept September 25 as the date for his title defense against Lewis, but the UFC chose to book Lewis vs. Gane instead. He posted, “Once it was clear Ngannou couldn’t fight on Aug. 7, he was asked and accepted Sept. 25 versus Lewis, sources say. UFC went with the IC title fight on Aug. 7 instead.”
So Ngannou and his team would seem to have a fair reason to be upset with the UFC for moving so quickly to make a fight for interim gold over waiting one more month for the champ to be ready.
Ngannou just defeated Miocic at UFC 260 for the belt in March, so it’s been about three months since his last fight.
YouTube: Real Talk with Kelsey and Rachel