Regardless of the outcome of the UFC 270 main event between Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane, coach Fernand Lopez just wants to squash the beef with his former pupil.
Ngannou cut his teeth in MMA after joining the Lopez’s MMA Factory gym in Paris, France, where the pair worked together to harness the Cameroonian’s natural physical gifts and channel them into a world-class mixed martial arts fighter.
Lopez and Ngannou worked together through “The Predator’s” early UFC career before an acrimonious split after Ngannou suffered back-to-back losses to then-champion Stipe Miocic, then Derrick Lewis.
Ngannou has gone public with his reasoning for his split from Lopez, accusing the coach of jealousy and suggesting “he thought I was taking all the spotlight,” during an interview with GQ magazine.
Ngannou moved to Las Vegas and linked up with Xtreme Couture head coach Eric Nicksick, who has taken his game to new heights. Since the switch, Ngannou has won five in a row, finishing all of them by knockout, with four of those finishes coming in the first round.
But now Ngannou and Lopez are set to be reunited, albeit in different roles. Lopez’s pupil and Ngannou’s former teammate Ciryl Gane is the new UFC interim heavyweight champion and will challenge Ngannou for the undisputed crown in the main event of UFC 270 on Saturday night.
The simmering tension between Ngannou and his former coach has been palpable ever since the bout was announced, and Lopez has now reached the stage where he wants everything to be resolved so both men can move on from their past differences.
“I’m totally sick of it,” Lopez told Submission Radio this week.
“I’m tired. I can’t do that anymore.
“The problem is, being authentic is not easy to do. Whenever you’re authentic, you get in trouble at some point.
“I’m a father, I have two sons. You want me to tell you who is better than who? This gets me in trouble because the other son will say, ‘Oh you see, he’s trying to pin me down again. He’s trying to say (negative things) about me again.’ So, let it be.”
The dynamic of Ngannou not only facing his former coach, but also his former teammate and training partner, offers a fascinating narrative heading into the huge heavyweight unification bout in Anaheim, California.
And while Lopez will be doing all he can to engineer his former pupil’s downfall, the Paris-based coach said he doesn’t want to leave California with bitterness on either side of the relationship.
“I don’t want to sound like the ex-wife who can’t let go because they split,” Lopez said.
“I’m really open to shaking his hand any time or talk with him any time, but I can’t work with him anymore.
“It’s like you were working in a very complicated job, and you discovered how to work in a comfort zone, in the best comfort zone that you can have.
“So, yeah, I will not go back to work with Francis ever. But I think, as a gentleman, we should be able to say ‘Hello, how are you doing?’ That’s it, and be polite.
“We choose our friends, and you can be friends with this guy and not be friends with that guy. I don’t think we really can keep working or do any friendship. I think we just have to be polite to each other and be respectful.”
Photo credit: @lopez_fernand on Instagram