Fortunately, he scored exactly that. The former UFC interim heavyweight champion ran roughshod over Serghei Spivac in Saturday’s main event to earn a second-round TKO and emerge victorious in a flawless performance at the Accor Arena in Paris.
“Everything was perfect,” Gane said Saturday on the UFC post-fight show. “He was a perfect [opponent] for me, Spivac, to prove I’m here against a wrestler [and capable of winning]. Unfortunately I did some mistakes in my past, but today, we’re here.
“It was my mission to finish the fight, it was my mission to be a dog. But my first mission, it was to not go down and to prove I can defend [takedowns], that I can stay smart, that I can keep my game plan, and I did it. We did very well and I’m so happy about this performance, seriously. We did it.”
Gane, 33, entered the bout still reeling from an anticlimactic first-round submission loss to Jon Jones for the vacant heavyweight title this past March at UFC 285. The setback dropped Gane’s record to 0-2 in shots at the undisputed UFC belt, and was easily the most disappointing showing of his five-year MMA career, with Gane succumbing to Jones in mere minutes after previously getting out-wrestled by a one-legged Francis Ngannou in 2022.
Those two setbacks left many questioning Gane’s ability to defend takedowns against high-level heavyweight grapplers, however the Frenchman showcased improvements against Spivac, fending off the Moldovan’s only takedown attempt and outstriking him to the tune of the second-largest strike differential in UFC heavyweight history (109 to 11).
“Just after [Spivac] tried [a takedown] and just after he saw, ‘Oof, OK, I spent a little bit of energy, it’s going to not be easy to [take] down Ciryl,’ so I’m happy about that,” Gane said in his post-fight press conference. “We learned about it and we did it very well, so yeah, good.”
“It was not really important [to prove my doubters wrong],” Gane added. “That’s not a good word. But just to fix it, you know what I mean? Just to fix the situation. It was a mistake, it was not me. I know. My coach and all of my corner know that, I was not here in my last fight. And today I was really here, really aware, and I proved it and we did it.
“To have a comeback like that, I proved that I’m still here.”
With Jones and two-time champion Stipe Miocic set to collide for the belt on Nov. 11 at UFC 285, Gane now finds himself back in the mix of the heavyweight title chase.
Another man in that title chase is English heavyweight Tom Aspinall, who’s campaigned to fight the winner of Gane vs. Spivac since late July and was seated cageside to watch Gane’s masterclass. When confronted with Aspinall’s callout, however, the Frenchman demurred.
“I know he called out my name, but that’s perfectly normal in this position. He wants to go up [the rankings],” Gane said of Aspinall. “But me too. You know what I mean? So I did a mistake, it was my first real mistake unfortunately and the people were a little bit hard with me, it was a little bit painful. But tonight I proved, with all of the pressure I can have, I did very great and I proved it … and I want to go back to the belt, for sure.”
“This is a new era for the heavyweight division and you have some big movement. We’re waiting for the big title fight with two GOATs, maybe they’re going to retire,” Gane added. “So for me, the good way is to go back [and see how everything plays out]. It was my mission tonight to shine, to prove I’m still here and I want to go back to the belt. So we will see, we will see for the moment.”
When asked about the possibility of facing either Aspinall or Sergei Pavlovich as well — the latter of whom is expected to be the backup fighter for Jones vs. Miocic — Gane reiterated that he doesn’t have a preference of opponent or timeline for his next move. He only wants whichever fight is going to get him back to another crack at the undisputed title.
“I don’t have a good answer for that,” Gane said. “Since I started my career, I had no answer, no matter who, no matter. Do you remember my first words? Anyone, anywhere — do you remember that? I stay exactly the same guy but I want to go to the belt.”