An interim heavyweight championship tilt pitting Derrick Lewis against Ciryl Gane has been added to the UFC 265 pay-per-view lineup on Aug. 7.
UFC president Dana White informed broadcast partner ESPN of the booking, which came about because reigning heavyweight king Francis Ngannou wouldn’t be ready to defend his belt by August. The promotion tried to book Ngannou vs. Lewis in June and again at UFC 265 without success.
Lewis vs. Gane will officially serve as the UFC 265 main event, and the card will take place in Houston. Amanda Nunes will defend the bantamweight crown against Julianna Pena in the evening’s co-headliner.
Ngannou’s team was surprised by the suddenness of the interim championship announcement. The Cameroonian-born Frenchman claimed the heavyweight throne with a second-round KO of Stipe Miocic in the UFC 260 headliner on March 27.
"This comes as a complete shock," Ngannou's agent, Marquel Martin, told ESPN. "To make an interim title so soon, if you look at the history of this division, it comes as a surprise.
"Francis is just now returning to the States to begin training, and he just won the title three months ago. We're unsure of what the reasoning is behind this, but we hope to get clarity soon and figure out something with the UFC soon. At the end of the day, they're in control of these decisions."
Lewis defeated Ngannou in a lackluster three-round decision at UFC 226 in July 2018. “The Black Beast,” who is a Houston native, is currently on a four-bout winning streak within the Las Vegas-based promotion and is coming off a second-round knockout of Curtis Blaydes in the UFC Fight Night 185 main event on Feb. 20.
Gane is 9-0 since beginning his professional MMA career in 2018, a ledger that includes six triumphs in the Octagon. The Frenchman has scored back-to-back five-round verdicts over Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Alexander Volkov in his last two promotional appearances. The triumph against Volkov this past Saturday didn’t particularly impress Lewis, however.
“Karate sparring match,” Lewis wrote on Twitter.
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