Ciryl Gane, the French MMA champion who grilled the stages

Ciryl Gane lands a flying knee against Don’Tale Mayes in their heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, Singapore on October 26, 2019. JEFF BOTTARI / ZUFFA LLC VIA GETTY IMAGES

Ciryl Gane parks her scooter in front of the MMA Factory. Inside the room at the Porte Dorée, in eastern Paris, two gendarmes are waiting for him… But it’s not for a verbalization or an identity check. This Tuesday, August 23, Maxime and Quentin came to show their support for the flagship tricolor fighter of the first event of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) – the major American league for this sport – organized, Saturday, September 3, at the Accor Arena. , in Paris: Ciryl Gane against the Australian Tai Tuivasa. The two gendarmes may both have the build of a wardrobe, they feel “like children” when taking a souvenir photo, glued to his 1.95 m and 111 kg.

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Today number 2 heavyweight in the UFC, “Bon Gamin” is preparing to return to the octagon a few months after his defeat against Cameroonian champion Francis Ngannou. His nickname, tattooed on the left thigh, is a reference to his band of friends, an eponymous Vendée rap collective. Saturday, Bercy will be full to cheer its ambassador to the meteoric rise.

“Good kid” against the “bad boy”

At 24, Ciryl Gane discovered combat sports through Thai boxing. At 27, he walked through the doors of the MMA Factory. In 2021, he won, at 31, the UFC interim heavyweight champion belt by beating by K.-O. technical American Derrick Lewis. In the meantime, MMA competitions in France had been legalized in January 2020.

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Unlike his next adversary, Tai Tuivasa, who distributes shocking phrases in interviews and shares his excesses on his Instagram account, the French star does not cultivate the image of the bad boy. Little boy, he was even the complete opposite of a daredevil: “I was afraid of waterlaughs this youngest of a sibling of three. Until the day my brother pushed me off the edge of the pool. It had triggered something. » That’s how he learned to swim.

In La Roche-sur-Yon, his father was a bus driver and his mother was a cutter in the factory. Modest, “with love”Ciryl’s childhood was marked by sport, and not just because her brother lined their common room with posters of the basketball stars of the 1990s. In football, then in basketball, the teenager shows enormous potential, but it scuttles itself when passing detections. “As soon as I stopped having fun, I moved on to something else…”he summarizes.

head and legs

His father often repeats to him: “If you don’t want to work at school, that’s fine, but don’t stop other people from working. I’ll find you a job. You will go with Gerard [un ami de la famille] behind the dumpster…” The son will be a garbage collector, among other things, then a sales consultant in telephone, bedding, furniture stores…

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If he had grown up in the United States, Ciryl Gane believes he could have broken into basketball or American football. “What is a pity, in France, he considers, is that no one ever told me that I could have made sport my job, while I was killing everyone [sic] in all disciplines of athletics. »

The physical abilities of the Vendéen are extraordinary, but not only. His brain is working at full speed, and Fernand Lopez will quickly notice it at the MMA Factory. The coach perceives the seasoned boxer’s ability to read the opponent’s game, while “Bon Gamin” has only two and a half years of practice: “He was already dodging as if someone was telling him in his earpiece ‘watch out, there’s a blow coming from the left.’ »

When he left for Montreal in August 2018 for his big professional MMA debut in a Canadian league, observers weren’t giving a lot of his chances in ground wrestling. Verdict? “After one minute thirty-six, I pass a “guillotine” to my opponent”replays the one who entered the room to the sound of Timeout, from Booba. Strangled by the submission technique, the Canadian Bobby Sullivan gives up.

Ciryl Gane opens the doors of the UFC soon. He chained ten consecutive victories in as many fights (three by submission, four by technical knockout and three by decision of the judges) before bowing for the first time, in January in Los Angeles, against Francis Ngannou, a former homeless man in the streets of Paris, launched in MMA by the same Fernand Lopez.

The celebrity “I don’t care, I have no ego!” »

From this defeat, unanimously pronounced by the judges at the end of five rounds, the Vendéen does not retain a feeling of revenge, but a reminder anchored in his memory: he does not like to lose. “It took me back to childhood, to football tournaments, when you cry with all the guys after losing the final. You go pick up your consolation gifts and get back on the bus to go back to your city…”

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Today, Ciryl Gane is a millionaire. Since his last fight, he has toured television sets. We now recognize him in the streets of Paris or New York. “Sometimes people freak out when they see me at a red light with an old helmet and yellow glasses. » He laughs about it. And if not, fame? “I don’t care, I don’t have an ego! »

After an hour of taking the beatings of his colt on the mat at the MMA Factory, Fernand Lopez can wipe his sweat and put away bear paws and a protective vest: “We better stop here, because I have a feeling you’re going to pull my teeth!” »

Florian Lefevre

The article is in French

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