Ciryl Gane has said that he views his bout with Alexander Volkov this weekend as a 'semi-final' in an unofficial tournament for the UFC heavyweight title, and the Russian agrees.
Gane is undefeated at 8-0 and has wowed fans with his rapid rise through the sport, emerging as one of the most technically proficient heavyweights that MMA has seen in years.
And the French fighter believes that he is just one fight away from facing the winner of Derrick Lewis' rematch with the newly crowned 265 lb champion Francis Ngannou.
Speaking with Mirror Fighting ahead of the bout, which takes place at prime time for fans in the UK and Europe, Gane remained confident that he would be getting the shot ahead of any other contenders.
"I think this fight is like a semi-finals," he said. "I think its a final eliminator this Saturday, and if I win I am the main name for the shot at the belt.
"It doesn't matter who [is the champion], if I'm fighting Jon Jones when I have the belt, I'll probably have had to beat Derrick Lewis and Francis Ngannou."
Lewis v Ngannou was expected to take place in August at UFC 265, but according to a report from veteran journalist Ariel Helwani that date is now in jeopardy.
And Volkov understands that despite it being the 'logical' number one contender fight, he could still face more hurdles if Jon Jones or Stipe Miocic end up back in the title picture.
"I think that it's actually pretty logical for the winner of our fight to face the winner of Lewis v Ngannou," Volkov told Mirror Fighting through a translator.
"Who else? So basically I think it will happen, but as a veteran of the sport I know that there are people like Stipe [Miocic] and Jon Jones involved, so I won't be on the losing side if it doesn't happen.
"I will face the champion no matter when, I will do this, that's for sure but I know that right now would be a great time for me to earn this title shot."
Volkov has already faced top contender Lewis before, losing to a late, late knockout on the undercard of Conor McGregor v Khabib Nurmagomedov after dominating the first 14-and-a-half minutes of the fight.
But he doesn't hold anything against Lewis, who catapulted himself to fame – and a title fight with then-champion Daniel Cormier at Madison Square Garden – with the stunning win.
"I approach my fights professionally," he said when asked if he would rather Lewis beat Ngannou to set up a rematch for the belt.
"I would be happy for either of them if they win and I think it will be a great fight anyway, but for me it's much more important to win the title rather than beat the person holding it."
UFC Fight Night: Gane v Volkov is live on BT Sport 2 this Saturday night, with prelims kicking off at 7pm and the main card beginning at 9pm.
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