UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou will make the first defence of his title against Ciryl Gane on January 22.
French-Cameroonian Ngannou, 35, won the belt with a shock victory over America’s Stipe Miocic in March.
Interim champ Gane has – unlike Ngannou – won all of his 10 fights, including a third-round TKO in his most recent fight against Derrick Lewis, the only other man besides Miocic to actually defeat Ngannou inside the octagon.
Ngannou, 35, and Gane, 30, used to train together at MMA Factory in Paris, and there’s even footage of a young Ngannou and Gane sparring under the tutelage of Fernand Lopez.
But after Ngannou lost to Miocic in his first title fight, he left everyone from his old gym behind, including Gane.
The pair have since remained fairly respectful towards each other, but their paths will cross as they look to settle old scores once and for all.
“It’s badass,” UFC president Dana White said.
“What I love is when we were going into this fight, I was telling everybody and it’s absolutely true.
“You have two of the best possible heavyweights in the world fighting each other.
“You have the guy who beat Francis Ngannou, right? And a guy who is undefeated with the whole backstory that you just said, right?
“This fight got a lot of heat. It created a lot of interest. Ciryl Gane goes out tonight. He looks incredible.
“Like he said earlier, we’ve been working a long time on getting France.
“France is open now and we just got a TV deal in France.
“Here we are. What you always want to do when you either build fighters or build fights or put on fights is you want to have the best possible guys fighting each other that you possibly can.
“It doesn’t get any better than this. You couldn’t write it. You couldn’t script it. F—— Vince [McMahon] couldn’t have wrote a better script for this whole thing. It’s beautiful.”
This article will be updated.