Ciryl Gane’s Coach Told Him Not To Low Kick Francis Ngannou Despite Injury Rumor

Ciryl Gane’s coach Fernand Lopez has revealed that he had heard rumors that Francis Ngannou’s knee was injured prior to their UFC 270 title showdown on Saturday night, but thought that it was a bluff.

As such, Lopez has admitted on The MMA Hours show that he advised Gane against low-kicking Ngannou to exploit the injured limb, fearing that it was a trap to set him up for a big counter-punch.

“Don’t go for the low kick,” Lopez recalls telling Gane. “I don’t believe Francis is hurt. He will counter you.”

“I told Ciryl, don’t go kick a blank low kick [in the open],” Lopez continued. “You will get knocked out by Francis. Don’t kick down. Stay on the kick that we’re using.”

The kick they utilized instead was a taekwondo style attack that was more of a light, point-based style rather than a damage-inducing connection, enabling Gane to land without overcommitting to the strike and leaving himself open to being countered.

As it turned out, a more muay-thai based low kick could have paid off for Gane after all, as Ngannou confirmed post-fight that his knee had suffered a grade 3 MCL tear as well as ACL damage three weeks prior to the fight and will now require surgery to fix the damage.

We’ll never know if Gane could have compromised that knee further to help him win the fight, but what we did learn was that while his light-kicking strategy helped win him early rounds in the blockbuster showdown, it was Ngannou’s unexpected wrestling strategy later in the fight that would ultimately be the deciding factor in the fight.

Some have claimed that Gane and his team weren’t prepared for the feared striker to grapple with him, but Lopez has claimed that wasn’t the case.

“I knew that they would be wrestling, because I said that in many interviews: I don’t see how in the first two rounds we will be challenged in the boxing department. I knew that [we] wouldn’t be challenged, and that’s what happened.

“Francis is powerful, and I think he did a good job on wrestling. But I wasn’t surprised on that. I’m not trying to say I don’t appreciate it. I really appreciated it, but I wasn’t surprised at all.”

It’s also been suggested that given that it was such a close fight going into the final round that Gane made a critical tactical error when he got Ngannou down and then opted to attempt a risky heel hook submission rather than attempt to control the action on top, but Lopez doesn’t regret that decision.

“I don’t regret at all,” Lopez said. “If he didn’t hit that heel hook and we lost by decision, I would be killing myself saying why didn’t he try it, because he’s very good at that. This is part of the spectacle. You guys want Ciryl to bring the show. He brought the show. In my team, in Eric Nicksick’s team, in the venue, who didn’t get scared on that heel hook? Everyone was like, ‘Oh sh*t. He’s going for this again.’ But it went bad. So let’s just say we’re back to the drawing board and try to learn again.”

Ross launched MMA Insight (previously in 2009 as a way to channel his passion for the sport of mixed martial arts. He's since penned countless news stories and live fight reports along with dozens of feature articles as the lead writer for the site, reaching millions of fans in the process.