Ngannou's ex-coach reveals reasons for bitter split with UFC champ

‘I’d rather train Cyril Gane for free than get paid $100,000 for 10 minutes with Francis Ngannou’: UFC heavyweight champion’s ex-coach reveals reasons for bitter split… claiming star even refused to pay £506 gym membership

  • Francis Ngannou had acrimonious split with former coach Fernand Lopez 
  • UFC heavyweight champion will fight Lopez’s charge Ciryl Gane at UFC 270 
  • Lopez has revealed reasons behind him telling Ngannou to leave the gym 
  • He says Ngannou refused to pay the £506 annual fee charged to everyone 

The split between Francis Ngannou and his old coach is at the heart of next year’s UFC heavyweight title showdown against Cyril Gane. 

There is plenty of ill-feeling from both camps now that friends have become rivals although little was known of the reasons for their fall out until now. 

Fernand Lopez coached Ngnannou at MMA Factory Paris, where the champion also sparred with Gane, but was then unceremoniously booted out for a number of different reasons. 

Fernand Lopez (left) is preparing interim heavyweight champion Cyril Gane (right) to fight his old pupil and Gane’s old sparring partner Francis Ngannou for the title next year

Ngannou and Lopez used to be close but they had a series of falling outs and Ngannou left

Ngannou now trains in Las Vegas while Lopez still works with Gane in France and is coaching him up to dethrone his former pupil. 

On the MMA Hour, Lopez revealed what caused the breakdown of their relationship. 

He said: ‘Francis said to me, “I’m the one bringing the light in the gym, I shall not pay any membership”. I said, “This is crazy. You must be crazy. You spent four years of your life in my gym. I never asked you for anything.”

The annual membership payments are made by everyone using the gym and cost £506 around the time Lopez asked for it back in 2016. 

Lopez first invited Ngannou to the gym to train for free when the Cameroonian was homeless in Paris. 

He believed it was then only fair that they share in Ngannou’s subsequent success but the heavyweight put up resistance. 

Lopez went on: ‘Francis was like “You pay me 10 percent”. On top of the 10, you ask me to pay the sparring partner with that money that you give me. On top of that, you’re saying that would be a shame to know that a big name like you is paying the membership. 

‘So I said, “You know what? You don’t listen to me any more when I’m giving the class. You choose the easy way to train. Please, let’s just split.” And we did.”

Lopez also claimed that Ngannou actively tried to dissuade the UFC from striking a deal to sign Gane, who remains unbeaten and will try to take the belt from the champion next January. 

‘Mick (Maynard- UFC matchmaker) asked him if Ciryl Gane is good. Francis said he’s a little bit good, but not good enough yet to go to the UFC. That’s coming from Francis Ngannou’s mouth. 

Another perceived slight came in 2018 when Ngannou was given KO of the year for his finish of Alistair Overeem when he failed to thank any of his coaches or team-mates during his acceptance speech. 

The pair worked together for a long time but Lopez claims Ngannou did not want to pay him the gym membership fee despite the low cost of £506

Lopez is a key figure at the heart of the bad blood between Ngannou and Gane 

Gane admitted he was surprised at the behaviour of his former sparring partner 

Lopez explained: ‘Your guy, he’s your coach, he’s from your country. He has been through everything hard – I’m not trying to get points, I don’t explain my life I don’t say how I got in France and how I managed to be who I am – but actually, there are tons of Cameroon people that have the same path as Francis, but you guys don’t know. 

‘For you guys, it’s like something tragic. It’s a hard story. But for us, it’s like a normal thing. And you have this guy, sitting with you. His business is to sell the gym, sell memberships. It makes sense for you to say, “Hey, thank you to my gym.” It’s not wrong. I should not be ashamed to ask that. I should not even ask him that. It’s putting me in a very bad spot.’

Francis Ngannou walked right past Ciryl Gane without acknowledging him at UFC 268

Lopez believes the relationship is broken and even went as far as saying: ‘If offered $100,000 to train Francis for 10 minutes or train Gane for free, he said he would choose the latter. 

‘He’s a nice guy in some part, but in other parts, he’s not that nice. That’s it.’

The animosity was clear to see recently at Madison Square Garden with both Gane and Ngannou in the arena to see the UFC 268 fights. 

Footage captured Ngannou walking past Gane and Lopez in the bowels of the venue, completely blanking both of them. 

The friends-turned rivals narrative will be a key selling point for next year’s highly-anticipated showdown for the belt.   

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