French mixed martial artist Ciryl “Bon Gamin” Gane might be the fastest-rising UFC heavyweight since Brock Lesnar. Gane only started martial arts six years ago as a Muay Thai kickboxer and amassed a record of 13-0 in just three years. He then proceeded to jump into pro MMA and now he’s fighting for the Interim Heavyweight title on August 7 at UFC 265– almost exactly three years to the day of his pro MMA debut.
There’s an eerie sense of calculation in Gane’s career path– almost drawing parallels to his own style of fighting. Everything is within a framework of steady ascent. Gane’s fights– though most would find boring– are highly technical with the Frenchman never stepping out of place or taking unnecessary chances. This allowed him to keep his undefeated record intact (one might even say that he’s never lost a round in his career). Unlike the aforementioned Lesnar who came barreling like a bull in a China shop and entered the fray as a berserker en route to a UFC belt, Gane paced all his 6 wins in just two years in the company to land his first shot at gold.
The question is, is he ready for the top yet?
The heavyweight division is currently ruled by the man with the proverbial “touch of death”– owner of the hardest punch in history– Francis Ngannou. If we all remember, Ngannou was also deemed to have been pushed too early towards a title shot back in 2018, after he got dominated by then-champion Stipe Miocic in their first dance. And even Ngannou took three years (and a string of finishes) before getting his first (premature) title shot. So how is Gane different? In the span of 24 months Gane has had 6 straight wins, sure. But with his last two victories coming by way of long, drawn out decisions, one might ask if he deserves a title shot already. Granted, it’s an Interim belt and the winner will face the Undisputed Champion, but to have Gane in the title conversation might have some people deeming it too early.
One can chalk it up to timing and the state of the heavyweight division at the moment. Ngannou isn’t available for an August fight with no. 2 Derrick Lewis while most of the top ten of the division are just coming off a loss. Jon Jones isn’t showing any signs of moving to heavyweight any time soon and so Lewis vs. Gane makes a compelling tale of who will battle for the Undisputed gold. Lewis is the last man to beat Ngannou while the undefeated Gane is a former sparring partner of Cameroonian champion.
But just like the case with Ngannou in 2018, we’ll never know if Gane is truly ready until he goes out there and fights. On paper, the French kickboxer has all the tools to beat both his UFC 265 opponent Derrick Lewis, and the current Champion Ngannou. His peppering punches and kicks coupled by his foot-work heavy movement can nullify both Lewis and Ngannou’s equalizers– the atomic right (and left) hand. Add that with his supreme conditioning that allows him to maintain his high activity for 25 minutes and his surprisingly effective submission game, Gane definitely has the potential to be the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion at some point.
And so if he wins in empathic fashion against Lewis come August 7th, then people might say Gane is ready for the belt. If he loses, however, then pundits are going to say that he got pushed too early. In any case, we’ll never know until we do. We’ll just have to tune in to UFC 265 to find out.
Order UFC 265 PPV on ESPN+ now to watch Derrick Lewis vs. Ciryl Gane and all other main card fights this Saturday.