Ciryl Gane records France’s first major MMA title
On Saturday night at UFC 265, French heavyweight Ciryl Gane competed in MMA for only his tenth time professionally. The result? A third round knockout of, former title challenger and 34-fight veteran, Derrick Lewis.
The result earned him the title of UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion. A title that seems meaningless to MMA hardcores and yet seems to be important to the casual fan. The belt actual champions wear is draped over the interim champion. You can hardly blame someone for thinking that has meaning.
How about a whole country? Could you blame France for being interested now that they have a champion* in the UFC?
MMA has struggled for many reasons in the country, including the fact that MMA was illegal for many years. Now, the sport is legal and the country has a champion*.
So now what?
Can Gane do anything to make the sport mainstream in his homeland? The sport has been referred to as “that boxing thing,” “is it Muay Thai?,” some sort of WWE thing?” So it’s fair to say the heavyweight has his work cut out for him.
Coverage of the UFC in France is minimal, even Conor McGregor doesn’t feature in the news there. UFC 265 didn’t get too many mentions but did have one that was important, “L’Equipe.”
“L’Equipe” is a very big sports outlet famous for covering Soccer mostly. A mention on this kind of website is very important. Coverage will only go up the more Gane is involved in big fights. He is the key in order for French websites to mention the sport.
A French Sports Website will almost always cover MMA when a big French fighter is involved. Now that he is a champion*. Gane is that big name athlete.
Just his mere presence helps elevate the sport in France. He has the opportunity to do what George St. Pierre did for MMA in Canada, and what many others have done for their respective countries. He has a chance to make history.
His future in the cage is linked with what he can do for the country. Winning the title, defending it, and looking dominant, will all help determine the sport’s popularity.
It’s a lot of pressure. Maybe it’s unfair to pin the sports future in France, on Gane. That doesn’t mean that isn’t the case though. If MMA was fair we wouldn’t have any interim champions.
Gane obtaining the title over Francis Ngannou would be huge, and every title defense after that, a bonus. It’s a complicated situation since he’s technically a champion but not THE champion. He still still has a Cameroonian mountain to climb.
Heavyweight is the toughest division to have a title reign in. So far, Stipe Miocic holds the record with three title defenses. Gane has a tough test in front of him but also a very rewarding one.
His future for MMA in France is very important. The hopes of a nation rest on Gane’s shoulders.