UFC heavyweight contender Derrick Lewis is hoping to avoid fights like the UFC 265 main event for the remainder of his career in the Octagon.
After falling to back-to-back losses versus then-champion Daniel Cormier and former titleholder Junior dos Santos, Lewis found the form of his life on the way back to the top of the division.
Between late 2019 and early 2021, “The Black Beast” secured victories over Blagoy Ivanov and Ilir Latifi on the scorecards and knocked out Alexei Oleinik and Curtis Blaydes with his devastatingly-powerful hands. That four-fight win streak cemented his spot as number-one contender, a status that was expected to see him challenge former opponent Francis Ngannou for the gold.
But with the UFC’s desire to have Lewis headline Houston’s UFC 265 pay-per-view, and the champion’s inability to make that date, Ciryl Gane was drafted in for a contest for the interim title. In an incredibly disappointing night in front of a home crowd, Lewis was comfortably controlled and beaten throughout, falling to a third-round TKO.
Four months later, he managed to right some of those wrongs with another brutal KO, this time against rising contender Chris Daukaus inside Las Vegas’ Apex facility at UFC Vegas 45.
Lewis: “I Don’t Have To Prove Anything”
For Lewis, it was a relief to return to the atmosphere and setting of a building he described as “perfect” for him. Not only did his December win, which saw him break the record for most KO triumphs in UFC history, provide an instant rebound from his August failing, but it made his future clearer.
During a recent appearance on Ariel Helwani’s The MMA Hour, Lewis suggested he is finished with the high-intensity fight weeks and pressure-loaded matchups. For the rest of his career, he’s targeting fun and easy-going fights.
“This last fight helped me. (It was) a big experience difference, coming into this fight. I just really wanted to go into a fight week and not have pressure on myself, and it felt great. I plan on doing that for the rest of my career now. I can just go out there and just have fun. I feel like I don’t have to prove anything. That’s one of the reasons I wanna fight Stipe (Miocic) next.”
Discussing his experience leading up to his main event clash with Gane at UFC 265, Lewis admitted the pressure put on him was too much for him to handle. To put his nerves into perspective, “The Black Beast” revealed he’d even tried to acquire marijuana to calm him on fight day.
“I don’t wanna experience that ever again. It was too much pressure. To the point where I was really calling people up like, ‘Let me get some weed off you so I can relax my nerves,’ during fight day; that type of pressure. Never felt it that bad… It felt embarrassing.”
With his latest remarks, it seems like it’s victory dances, cup-throwing, and a laid-back attitude for Lewis moving forward. If that means more brutal KOs, not many fans will be complaining, that’s for sure.
Next, Lewis will begin putting his new fun-fight resolution into motion when he faces fellow fan-friendly banger Tai “Bam Bam” Tuivasa at UFC 271.
What other fights do you still want to see Derrick Lewis in before he departs MMA’s biggest stage?
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