UFC president Dana White heaped praise on heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou following the Cameroonian’s successful title defense against Ciryl Gane at UFC 270.
Ngannou adopted an unexpected gameplan against his former training partner as, instead of relying on his prodigious knockout power, he turned to a side of his skillset few had seen before – his wrestling.
“The Predator” caught Gane completely by surprise as he outwrestled and outgrappled the interim champion to earn a unanimous decision on the scorecards in what many have suggested could be the most impressive performance of his UFC career.
One man who was hugely impressed was White, who spoke to fans during an ESPN+ Q&A.
“I think the heavyweight main event was a shocker,” White stated.
“I don’t think anybody expected to see Francis come in and wrestle. During the fight, I was very surprised. After the fight, it was genius.
“It was genius for him to go work on his wrestling. I guarantee you — I don’t know this for a fact — but I would guarantee you that Ciryl Gane did almost no wrestling to prepare for that fight.
“So to come in and implement the game plan that he had, it was brilliant.”
White was also asked about another surprise moment, when he wasn’t in the octagon to present the UFC championship belt to Ngannou after his win.
Some have suggested that was linked to the current tension between Ngannou’s management and the UFC, but White squashed those rumors as he gave his reasoning for his in-cage absence in Anaheim.
“I wasn’t out there for the main event — I actually walked out of the arena right after the co-main event because there was stuff going on backstage that I was dealing with,” White said.
“For anybody to think that I was showing any type of disrespect towards Francis — I saw Francis all week, you idiots.
“I shook his hand, I said ‘hi’ to him, I was out there for the staredowns, the whole thing.
“For anybody to think there was some type of disrespect shown towards Francis, I wasn’t out there for Michael Bisping (against Luke) Rockhold either because I was dealing with some stuff.
“I sprinted from the back, I didn’t even have my jacket on. I only had my shirt on to go out there and put the belt on Bisping. But I couldn’t make it out there to put the belt on Francis.
“There’s only been one time that I’ve walked out on a fight and made it very clear, showed up to the press conference and said this is exactly why I left.
“It was in Abu Dhabi (at UFC 112) with Anderson Silva – it was the Demian Maia fight. So there’s the answer. I don’t know if somebody asked that, but somebody wanted to. There you go.”