One of the UFC’s most successful heavyweights over the past two years, Derrick Lewis was just hoping for a chance to get back in the win column.
Those hopes were dashed when back issues rendered him barely able to move just hours before he was supposed to step into the Octagon against Fabricio Werdum at UFC 216. The decision was made to pull Lewis from the card, and while Werdum would be granted a replacement opponent in Walt Harris (who Werdum submitted in 65 seconds), Lewis was left to wallow in his hotel room wondering what could have been.
Lewis last fought in June, where he was defeated by Mark Hunt via fourth-round TKO in what was Lewis’s first loss in seven fights. That setback paled in comparison to not being able to fight at all.
“For sure, it was real depressing,” Lewis said Monday on The MMA Hour. “I took a big hit in my mental standpoint, it is way worse than a loss. It’s something that I never experienced and I hope it’s something that I never will experience ever again. I’m really in a depression stage right now.”
“I ain’t gonna lie to you, I was really crying,” Lewis continued. “I haven’t cried in years. I was really crying for the first time, my coaches, my wife, everybody was trying to butter me up, but I wasn’t trying to hear that, I was really crying.”
According to Lewis, being pulled from the fight meant that he received no compensation from the UFC. That was one of several reasons why he was emotionally devastated by having to withdraw.
“It was a bunch of things,” Lewis said. “All of that and knowing that all the work I put in through my training camp and stuff like that, and just to pull out hours away from the fight and knowing that I’m only doing this for the money also. Missing out on $300K and not getting anything from it, that hits you real hard too.”
Because Lewis has been fighting through back problems since 2011, he didn’t expect there to be any issues when it came to fighting Werdum. On this occasion, his condition worsened to the point that it took him hours just to muster up the strength to go the washroom.
Seeing that Lewis could hardly even move his legs, his team made the call for him to step away from his UFC 216 spot and move on to fight another day.
“I was crying like a big-ass baby,” Lewis said. “My coach knew how much this fight means to me and I didn’t want to pull out for nothing. My coaches, they all convinced me that it’s probably the best thing to do to pull out because they knew I was going through the same problems with Mark Hunt and I didn’t pull out in that fight and it cost me.”
Despite his dim mood, Lewis didn’t sound worried about this flare up being a sign of any greater concerns. The 32-year-old heavyweight teased a retirement following his loss to Hunt, but eventually decided to continue his MMA career. He’s waiting on the results of further tests before planning for another fight.
“Right now, anything is a possibility,” Lewis said. “We’re just waiting on MRIs right now before we can start my treatment because they want to see what’s the issue first. The doctor I talked to Thursday he said that he’s willing to release me anytime, it’s up to me, but I really want to take the precautions to see what’s really wrong with my back. I don’t want to happen again.
“Even if it does happen again, I don’t want to go through the same feelings I went through pulling out of the fight and all that, going through that emotional mess. I’m still going to fight no matter what.”