An interim title is already being introduced in the heavyweight division of UFC.
On Aug. 7 at UFC 265, Derrick Lewis will fight Ciryl Gane to crown an interim heavyweight champion in the new main event for the pay-per-view card set for Houston.
Multiple people with knowledge of the booking confirmed the news to MMA Fighting with bout agreements already issued after UFC President Dana White initially announced the title fight to ESPN.com.
Initially, all signs were pointing toward a rematch between Ngannou and Lewis in August. But the fight was never made official, and it appeared that perhaps the UFC was looking at a later date.
For Lewis, the title opportunity comes after he’s won his past four fights in a row, including a jaw-dropping knockout over Curtis Blaydes in his most recent appearance back in February. He holds a win over Ngannou from a previous meeting in 2018.
Amid a dispute over pay between former UFC light heavyweight Jon Jones, White named Lewis as the next challenger to Ngannou’s title. Now, he’ll have to go through another tough opponent in order to hopefully secure a future showdown with Ngannou.
As for Gane, he’s fresh off a five-round unanimous decision win over Alexander Volkov this past weekend at UFC Vegas 30. Gane is undefeated in his career with a perfect 9-0 record, including six of those wins coming in the UFC.
Gane spent his formative years in the sport training alongside Ngannou when they were both based out of France, and now he’ll seek to claim an interim title and a future showdown against an ex-teammate with a win in August.
While a new interim champion will be crowned in August, Ngannou will still hold onto his title and presumably face the winner at a later date, though the announcement about the new fight booked seemed like a surprise to his team.
“This comes as a complete shock,” Ngannou’s agent Marquel Martin said in a statement to ESPN.com. “To make an interim title so soon, if you look at the history of this division, it comes as a surprise. We hope to get clarity and figure out something with the UFC soon.”