Back in March, Francis N’Gannou defeated Stipe Miocic to become the new UFC Heavyweight Champion.
With such an incredible, feel-good win for the new champion, a great flock of potential challengers on the rise, and the ever-present arrival of arguably the greatest fighter of all time Jon Jones, the Heavyweight division looked to be in great shape.
However, this week it was announced that on August 7th at UFC 265, the division’s fastest rising star Ciryl Gane will face perennial top contender Derrick Lewis for an interim championship.
Why? This seems to be the question on everyone’s collective minds following this announcement.
Here is what we know and what we can expect.
The simple answer as to why we have this high-level fight be contested for an interim championship when it doesn’t need to be is that the UFC is impatient and booked a card too thin. Originally, the UFC wanted N’Gannou’s first defense of the Heavyweight Championship to be against Jon Jones. When Jones declined the fight due to what he believed to be insufficient pay, the fight was changed to N’Gannou facing Derrick Lewis. This would be a match-up that makes sense based on the rankings, a fight that would be a rematch in which the challenger had beaten the current champion, and a fight the fans would love to see.
While these plans seemed to be set in stone, N’Gannou never agreed on the date of August 7th. N’Gannou hoped to have a bit more time off between his fights and declined the date, not the opponent. Because the UFC was impatient with N’Gannou, and because they didn’t believe the UFC 265 card was strong enough, they booked Lewis in an interim title fight against the unbeaten Ciryl Gane, who fought just last week, giving him just over a month to prepare.
This fight makes absolutely no sense for anyone involved.
Starting first with the champion, N’Gannou was likely going to face both of these men at some point, so having them fight each other to decide who gets to face N’Gannou first is pointless. Lewis was already the number one contender and the next challenger for N’Gannou, so taking this fight for a title that means nothing effectively for him is unwise. And Ciryl Gane probably needed one more win to solidify his status as the next in line, but facing the number one contender just over a month removed from your last fight is incredibly risky.
Realistically, if Gane just waited for the fallout of N’Gannou and Lewis’ fight, he would probably be the next in line anyway. The UFC does appear to be the winner here because now they can advertise a pay-per-view with added stakes. The fans are also winners because this should be an exciting fight, regardless of the politics behind the scenes.
Despite the lack of sense being made here, this will be entertaining for the fans, and the fighters involved will put on a show with the winner having a date with the Heavyweight Champion of the world.
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