Did Francis Ngannou really say that he had knocked out Ciryl Gane during a sparring session?
The Cameroonian, who puts his UFC heavyweight title on the line against Gane on Saturday at UFC 270, made reference to it during the UFC 270 Countdown show ahead of fight night. It was new information for the press pack in California, who asked “The Predator” directly if he could confirm that it had happened.
“Yes, I knocked him out,” he stated.
“A high kick, left high kick.”
Ngannou was calm and softly spoken throughout his media session, and was clearly very careful with his choice of words. He was also keen to stress that the incident was a training accident, rather than the by-product of two fighters throwing down a little too hard during sparring.
“That knockout wasn’t a voluntary knockout. It was in sparring. It was an accident,” he said.
“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.”
Much has been made of the fact that Ngannou and Gane used to share the mats at the MMA Factory gym in Paris, France, when both fighters worked under the tutelage of head coach Fernand Lopez.
Ngannou and Lopez split after Ngannou’s defeat to Derrick Lewis, and both sides of the relationship have revealed tensions in subsequent interviews with the press.
However, Ngannou said that any ill feeling does not extend to Gane, who will attempt to dethrone him on Saturday night. He also stated that they weren’t longtime teammates, and only shared a limited time working together in France.
“We just spent a few sessions in three weeks,” Ngannou explained.
“It was maybe six sessions of training, definitely less than eight.
“That was back in January 2019 because, after I fought Curtis Blaydes in China, I went back to Cameroon and at Christmas I had the Cain Velasquez fight.
“I couldn’t come back to Vegas in time to set up a training camp because the fight was on February 17th.
“I stopped in France and trained there for one month and at the time Ciryl was there training for his fight, I believe. So, he left even before I left. I think it was three weeks before I left to go for his fight.
“So after that, I think it was February 3rd, I flew to Phoenix, I was there two weeks before my fight, and that’s it.”
As for this fight, Ngannou is clear on how he sees things panning out.
“My prediction is a knockout in two rounds.”