Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane’s coaches shared a touching moment after the pair came up against each other early Sunday morning in Los Angeles.
Ngannou, 35, used his wrestling to his advantage against Gane, 31, who seemingly had no answer to his former training partner’s sudden change in strategy.
The Frenchman, who was fighting for the title for the first time in his career, edged the opening rounds.
Ngannou struggled to find his range in the opening rounds as Gane’s silky footwork kept him out of danger.
And he was visibly breathing heavily as the bell rang at the end of the second round, but somehow managed to find a second wind as momentum swung in the other direction.
Gane failed to drive home his advantage, and Ngannou found his way back into the contest after some advice from coach Eric Nicksick.
The champion came out fully charged up in the third and dumped the challenger on his backside multiple times.
Perhaps sensing the victory slipping away from him Gane went for it in the fifth and final round, but Ngannou reversed position and soon resumed control of the fight.
To be honest it was a bit of a damp squib in comparison to the bad blood between the two sides in the build up to the fight which had been brewing for a number of years.
It all started when Ngannou left MMA Factory for Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, blaming Lopez for his defeat to Stipe Miocic in 2018.
Lopez was quick to fire back at Ngannou as he felt his ego got in the way of a victory over Miocic.
The pair have continued to level accusations at each other in recent months, with the MMA Factory owner claiming the champion’s refusal to pay his annual gym membership was one of the reasons behind their split.
Even Nicksick got involved as he expressed his sadness that their relationship has soured over the years.
The American has masterminded Ngannou’s sensational comeback including knockout wins over Curtis Blaydes, 30, Junior dos Santos, 37, and Cain Velasquez, 39.
Either way it seems the pair have a great deal of respect for each other as they were seen hugging before going their separate ways.
Lopez uploaded a video of the footage on his personal Instagram account accompanied by the following caption: “Congratulations Xtreme Couture, Francis Ngannou and Eric Nicksick one of they bests [sic] in the game.”
Unfortunately there is no audio so it is practically impossible to make out exactly what is being said unless you are able to lip read but there is evidently a lot of respect there as both men embraced backstage after the fight.
Meanwhile Ngannou is currently locked in a contract standoff with the UFC leaving his future uncertain amid reports of a crossover fight with Tyson Fury. As for Gane, however, it’s back to the drawing board.