Derrick Lewis’ run of comic wizardry in his post-fight octagon interviews has made him the clown prince of the UFC. Or maybe they’ll be crowning him king.
Houston heavyweight Lewis emerged this week as an unlikely main-event fighter in UFC 230 on Nov. 3 at Madison Square Garden against two-division champion Daniel Cormier, following his mighty knockout of Russia’s Alexander Volkov at UFC 229.
Well versed in playing possum and waiting for his opening to unleash the beast known as his right hand, Lewis was trailing Volkov on all three scorecards as the final seconds ticked away.
“I’ve been in that situation three or four times before where I’m losing the fight — the fight seems almost over with — and I knew I had to finish him and stop playing possum as much,” Lewis told the Los Angeles Times last week. “I throw so hard because I sit and wait for that perfect moment. I know I only need one punch to knock any guy out.”
That cannon shot struck Volkov flush on the jaw, knocking the 6-foot-7 Russian to the canvas. There, Lewis pounded him with finishing punches to the head and as Volkov appeared to be unconscious, and with just 11 seconds remaining, the referee waved the fight over.
“I have three corner guys, and I like to hear them tell me every minute of the fight, and in the last 30 seconds, they tell me every 10 seconds,” Lewis said. “That’s why I tried to end the fight the way I did.”
With Lewis being extended from three rounds to five for his upcoming title fight, the obvious question is whether he will explore a better cooling system.
“I’ll be good down there … my corner will bring me extra ice to the octagon to keep me cool,” cracked Lewis, whose title shot against Cormier (21-1) replaces a women’s flyweight title fight previously booked for the main event.
Lewis (21-5) is on an impressive run of nine victories in his last 10 fights, with seven by knockout. He also seems to have a wisecrack ready for any situation. UFC commentator Brian Stann once noticed Lewis holding his side following a fight and wondered if he’d taken some damage. “I’m not hurting,” Lewis explained. He just had to use the bathroom.
Lewis also once said a heavy run of fights had left him in a bad spot, so he informed the UFC, “I don’t want to hear nothing about no fighting in the next three months. ... With all the training and the sex I’ve been getting, my body needs the time off.”
Lewis is not a typical fighter, in his words or actions.
“I know I’m the least technical guy in the sport. Most of the champions or guys at the top are real martial artists. ... I don’t look at myself as a martial artist at all,” Lewis said.
“And I’m not disciplined like everyone else. I train only 30 minutes to an hour a day. For Cormier, I’ll train three to four hours. ... I’m really just a bar brawler — drink alcohol and start swinging on anyone.”
Because he’s so genuine, Lewis has become a fan favorite, and his fan club grew last year when he drove his truck into Hurricane Harvey-ravaged Houston to rescue an estimated 100 people in one morning-to-late-night shift. Hungry, he told ESPN he was “barbecuing,” then heading to nearby Beaumont the next day.
Asked if he feels fans’ adoration, Lewis said, “Not at all. I don’t look at stuff like that. I don’t do that stuff to make people like me. I just feel like if my family is happy, then I’m good. Everyone outside my family is up and down and wishy-washy.”
He was thrilled to sign for the Cormier fight while still in shape.
“It’s perfect timing. They let me know just in time before I started partying too hard. It had been so long since I’d had a beer,” said Lewis, who weighed in at the heavyweight limit of 265 pounds.
Can he defeat Cormier, a former Olympic wrestler?
“I don’t fear anyone. I’ve fought big wrestlers who kept trying to take me down,” Lewis said. “I had my moment on them. And as soon as I have my moment in this fight, I will capitalize on it and not hold anything back. You’ve just got to weather the storm and wait for your moment.”
An upset could launch Lewis to a lucrative 2019 fight against former heavyweight champion and WWE star Brock Lesnar.
“I’m making Hollywood money now,” Lewis said. “And I’m doing this sport for money. To be a legend? No. To be famous? No. If they get me a movie deal, I’ll be happy, but people will forget about me as soon as the fight’s over.”