Ciryl Gane's meteoric rise has him vying for UFC gold in just his 10th MMA fight

·Combat columnist
·3 min read

The first time the UFC approached Ciryl Gane about fighting Derrick Lewis for its interim heavyweight title, he said a quick and firm no.

His wife is pregnant and the couple’s second daughter is due on Aug. 20. He didn’t want to take a chance to be in the United States when his daughter was born.

“But after that call, I talked to my wife, I talked to my coach, I talked to my manager, and we decided that I should do it,” Gane told Yahoo Sports. “This is my career, and I have sacrificed a lot to get where I am. This fight was a big opportunity so after we had a lot of discussion, I said, ‘Yes, OK. Let’s do it.’”

So, on Saturday, a little less than two weeks before his second child is due to be born, Gane will face Lewis in the main event of UFC 265 at the Toyota Center in Lewis’ hometown of Houston.

Thus, Gane will go into the biggest fight of his life with his fingers crossed: He’s hopeful the unborn child cooperates and doesn’t come until he’s safely back home in Paris.

“You know how it is,” Gane said, laughing. “It could be any day. You never know. I just hope it’s a lot closer to August the 20th than it is to Saturday. But this is the one thing that is out of my control.”

But what is within his control — how the fight with Lewis goes — has him at peace. He’s confident as anyone can be against an opponent who is a knockout away from being the UFC’s all-time KO leader.

SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE - OCTOBER 26: (L-R) Ciryl Gane of France punches Don'Tale Mayes in their heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Singapore Indoor Stadium on October 26, 2019 in Singapore. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Ciryl Gane is 9-0 in his MMA career, which began in 2018. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Gane comes from a Muay Thai background and uses his athleticism to his advantage. He’s second among UFC heavyweights in significant strike percentage landed and he’s second in significant strike defense.

Simply put: He’s harder to hit than just about anyone and he hits more often than just about anyone else.

It’s because he’s 6-foot-5, 245 pounds with an 81-inch reach and the footwork and movement of someone 5-7, 150.

“He’s good with that, but he’s still boring in my book,” said Lewis, whose strategy is usually to start winging big right hands as soon as the bell rings.

Gane didn’t begin fighting in MMA until 2018 after giving up on his Muay Thai career. But like most things he’s done, he found that he picked it up quickly.

He was a basketball player and a soccer player in his youth. No matter what he did, he was good at it and among the best players in his group.

When he took up fighting at 25, he fell in love. He dove into training and was in elite condition, which in the heavyweight division is often more than half the battle.

But Gane discovered something else early on in his fighting career: He had a natural aptitude for it. He had a sense of movement and distance that came easily to him, and he knew how to set up his combinations as well as how to avoid traps.

And though he’s only been training in MMA for a little more than three years, he looks like a veteran in the cage against experienced fighters like Alexander Volkov and Junior dos Santos, among others.

“I’m a smart guy and I can see a fight and I can pick up on what the guy does,” Gane said. “It’s helped me to [catch up on others with more experience and time in the game].”

Lewis has attempted to get under his skin to get him to be more aggressive and, thus, open himself for shots, but Gane isn’t falling for that.

“Talking is one thing and fighting is something else,” he said. “I don’t need to talk because I know how [to fight].”

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