Ciryl Gane has described Francis Ngannou as ‘the final boss in my video game’.
Gane will challenge Ngannou for the heavyweight title later this month on January 22 in the main event of UFC 270 at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
And the 31-year-old Frenchman says it’s that belt, rather than Ngannou’s public spat with Lopez, that is the motivation heading into arguably the biggest fight of his career.
Gane told MMA Fighting: “It’s different, but not because it’s Francis – but because he’s the champion right now.
“And the champion is a really great fighter, who has a lot of strength, and this is the final boss to my video game.
“But like every time, if I make a mistake, it’s going to be okay. If I lose, I’m really okay with that. Like every fight in my career went like that.
“But at this time, yes, I want to do the last step. That’s why it’s a little bit different.”
Despite the fact Gane and Ngannou used to train together at MMA Factory in Paris, he claims they were never really that close.
And the former TKO heavyweight champion also revealed he hasn’t spoken to his former sparring partner since he left for Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas over three years ago.
When asked about the last time he actually spoke to Ngannou, he replied: “The last sparring three years ago.
“Francis is not exactly like that, he doesn’t like to have a lot of friends, and maybe he already thought I was going to be a future opponent. I’m not sure, I don’t know.
“You see, Francis is really private. He doesn’t like to have a lot of friends. I did a lot of stories when I just started in MMA Factory because I like to support my teammates and he was a part of MMA Factory then but he never replied to something like that.”
Gane, 31, is undefeated in his professional career and scored a stunning knockout victory over Derrick Lewis on his last trip to the octagon.
But he insists he couldn’t care less about his undefeated record as he knows he has got plenty of years ahead of him left in his career.
He insisted: “I’m really not stressed about that.
“You see particularly in the UFC they have a lot of guys, for example Justin Gaethje, he is a big star who has never had the belt. Sometimes he wins, sometimes he loses, but that’s okay.
“The UFC is a little bit different from other sports and other leagues so that’s why I’m not stressed about that because I know I’ve just arrived and I’ve got a lot of years in front of me. So if I lose [later this month], it’s going to be okay.”