Derrick Lewis’ goal is simple: next year’s heavyweight title; but for that, the immediate need is to find winning momentum. The opportunity to get started is as close as this weekend.
The first person standing in the veteran’s way is Sergey Spivak - his opponent in UFC Fight Night on Sunday. However, “The Black Beast,” as people call him, hasn’t had the best year, losing both his fights thus far.
The first defeat came in UFC 271, where he was knocked out in the second round by Australian Tai Tuivasa. The other was a loss to Russian Sergei Pavlovich in a contentious match at UFC 277. Lewis, though, is looking to leave the disappointment behind and end the year on a high, preferably with a knockout win.
“I’m pretty confident because I know that I should’ve won both the fights that I lost, and it happens. It’s been a crazy year and I don’t want to end my year with another loss, and I believe, by any means necessary, that I must win this next one,” Lewis told Sportstar ahead of his bout
The match against Pavlovich ended prematurely as the official intervened to inflict a stoppage within 55 seconds of the first round when Lewis was pinned down after taking serious hits to his head and torso. While the decision has ignited debates on whether it was an early stoppage or a clean win, Lewis believes he could’ve continued further.
“I believe the referee shouldn’t have stopped it. I wasn’t even hurt at all. I believe I was winning the fight, grounding and pounding him. It was a tough one to take.” he said.
At 37, Lewis understands how his age comes with the perception of him heading to the twilight years of his career but insists that he is here to stay .
“Age has nothing to do with my losses. If you look at my fights, most of them have been close. This has been the case since my 20s. It is always 50-50 because I fight in the heavyweight division.” he said.
Lewis’ career is laden with accolades and records, including his most recent one for the most knockouts in UFC heavyweight history (13), but his drive to keep going comes from his detractors.
“My past and my haters are the reason I keep going forward. I fight to prove them wrong and appreciate them for that,” he added.
Lewis is not alone in his fight, though. Behind him, is his mentor Bob Perez who made the Black Beast what he is today. The duo met 10 years ago, coming together a year after and there’s little Perez has not seen in Lewis’ life from thereon.
“He’s a great coach. He’s coached a number of the best fighters in the world. He’s got a good head over his shoulders and has taught me a lot. Most importantly, he focuses on my weakness and that’s what coaches are supposed to do. He’s helping me get better every day.” Lewis said about the man.
With 21 of his 26 wins coming from knockouts, Lewis is one of the most feared fighters in the heavyweight arena. However, the man is the absolute opposite beyond the octagon, making it a point to spend time with his closest ones no matter how rigorous his training schedule is or what the fight calendar looks like.
“My family is full of homebodies. We watch movies and play games and we do this every week. My kids think I’m the best dad ever just because I make time to talk to them. So, that’s not really a problem.” he added.
Lewis loves fighting and, more so, fighting in front of a crowd, but the one thing he dislikes is facing the media on a constant basis. In an interview with ufc.com, he said that he would have loved to have a hologram of himself that could handle all of his press obligations. When asked about how that’s coming along, Lewis said: “I haven’t started my hologram yet. That would be pretty cool though and I’d love that. If I knew someone who could do that, I’d be happy to pay them.”
Lewis, who made his UFC debut in 2014, is undoubtedly one of the greatest in the game and that reflects in the $1.5 million estimated net worth he has amassed over the years. While the financial upsides of the sport are there for all to see, Lewis discourages aspiring fighters from holding on to that part as a motivator.
“If someone is aiming to make big money right from the get-go, then they should look for something else other than UFC. Be an influencer, be like Jake Paul,” Lewis said with a chuckle.
“But if you’re still persistent, just don’t give up, it’s a tough sport. Win, lose, draw, it can give you everything. Don’t shy away from tough fights, it’s the tough fights that teach you a lot. Go ahead and take it. Whenever you go to a fight, believe that you can beat them,” he added.
Lewis will hope to channel that spirit on Sunday when, despite his legacy, he comes in as a bit of an underdog. But a scenario like this is what the Black Beast thrives in - another opportunity for him to tell his haters, “not today”.
The UFC fight night will be telecast live across Sony Sports network and can also be live streamed on Sony LIV. The main card begins at 2.30am IST and the prelims start at 11.30pm Saturday.