Derrick Lewis isn’t worried about world titles, or big pay-per-view main events moving forward, but he does have his sights set on a former champion for his next octagon appearance.
Lewis got back on track on the UFC’s final event of 2021 with a vicious knockout of Chris Daukaus at December’s UFC Vegas 45 event. Prior to that victory, “The Black Beast” faced Ciryl Gane in the main event of UFC 265 for an interim heavyweight title in Lewis’ home city of Houston. Gane would put Lewis away in the third round in a fight he was in full control of from the opening bell.
The 36-year-old Lewis admits he felt a lot of pressure heading into the fight with Gane, but also feels like the bounce back fight with Daukaus was the perfect palate cleanser. Now that he’s no longer feeling the pressure fighting can provide, Lewis is in a positive head space as he awaits his next move — which he hopes could be a matchup with Stipe Miocic.
“This last fight helped me,” Lewis told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “It was a big experience difference and I just wanted to finally go into a fight week and not put pressure on myself, and it felt great. I plan on doing that for the rest of my career — just go out there and have fun. I feel like I don’t have to prove anything and that’s one of the reasons why I want to fight Stipe next. I believe that would be a great matchup for the fans and for both of us. He’s more of a wrestler, and I’m more of a wrestler, too. So it would be a great, entertaining fight.
“I’ve fought just about everyone in the division in the top-10. It’d be a new face, new blood, and I believe I’d be a heavy underdog in this fight. I can get my fans their money back from the Gane fight.”
While fighting can bring anxiety to the athletes who put their bodies on the line, Lewis is hopeful he can avoid those situations moving forward. Between having a championship and PPV main event opportunity in Houston, to the rags to riches story it could have told in the future, Lewis felt immense pressure to come through for his hometown fans.
In the end, while it may be impossible to rid himself of those pressures, Lewis looks to the people who doubt him for additional assurance.
“I’ve got a lot of people rooting against me, a lot of family members, a lot of haters,” Lewis explained. “I’ve got to use that energy to really push myself forward, so that’s what I’ve been doing.
“After that fight [with Gane], I didn’t even have to change my number because nobody was hitting me up to go hang out, or this and that. As soon as I win, everybody, and their mommy and daddy, uncles, cousins, everybody is calling me. Whenever I lose, nobody wants to talk to me, nobody wants to be around me. That’s fine with me.”