Houston’s Derrick Lewis fights for interim UFC title

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Derrick Lewis is among the many few universally beloved figures throughout blended martial arts. The veteran UFC heavyweight’s violent combating model and likable, humorous persona have made his bouts must-see occasions for a number of years.

Effectively, for everyone besides his three youngsters.

They will not even be at Toyota Heart in Houston on Saturday evening when Lewis (25-7) fights for the interim UFC heavyweight title of their hometown at UFC 265.

“My youngsters don’t give a rattling if I’m combating,” Lewis mentioned with a grimace. “They don’t care about that. They don’t care. They all the time say, ‘Who cares?’ Even the neighbor youngsters that say, ‘Your dad is known!’ They are saying, ‘We all know. We don’t care.’ All they care about is taking part in video video games on YouTube and stuff like that.”

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His youngsters won’t be in his nook, however the 36-year-old Lewis could have the backing of primarily everyone else within the constructing when he makes an attempt to succeed in the head of his profession in opposition to France’s Ciryl Gane (9-0), a muay thai champion who has rocketed to the highest of MMA in simply three years.

Lewis has been within the UFC for seven of his 11 years within the sport, however has by no means been a champion. He misplaced to Daniel Cormier in his solely earlier title shot three years in the past, and he maturely realized he might need to accept a well-paid profession headlining secondary battle nights when the UFC wants a well-liked identify to attract eyeballs.

The heavy-handed Lewis is on a four-fight successful streak, however he wasn’t chasing this title shot. In actual fact, he needed to be reminded just lately that his subsequent bout may finish with a strap round his waist.

“I’m nonetheless actually not even serious about that,” Lewis mentioned. “My thoughts nonetheless isn’t actually on the title, as a result of I’m nonetheless getting paid. I had forgot all about it.”

That is most likely factor, as a result of this interim belt has drawn a lot derision across the MMA world.

The UFC curiously determined to award an interim title solely 4 months after Francis Ngannou captured the actual heavyweight strap by beating Stipe Miocic in Las Vegas. The UFC had mildly bickered with Ngannou over the timing of his subsequent title shot, however the promotion was clearly keen to advertise UFC 265 with any type of championship designation to the hundreds of thousands of informal battle followers who do not perceive the sketchiness of the entire affair.

If he claims the belt, Lewis will probably be extra excited a couple of unifying rematch with Ngannou. Lewis infamously beat a clumsy model of Ngannou by choice at UFC 226 in July 2018, solely to look at Ngannou resurrect his profession with 5 straight wins and a belt.

Gane will battle for a title in simply his seventh UFC bout, and he is a bit extra excited in regards to the strap than Lewis. The Frenchman mentioned it was “not doable for me to say no when the UFC known as,” although his spouse is because of give beginning to their second daughter Aug. 20.

Gane additionally is not nervous in regards to the probability he’ll be booed for each minute he is on the world flooring at UFC 265 to tackle Houston’s hometown hero.

“This isn’t an issue for me,” Gane mentioned with a smile. “I’m comfy with the scenario. He has his followers. If it was going to be in Paris … effectively, these followers are going to make it a bit of extra enjoyable.”

UFC 265 additionally options former featherweight champion José Aldo in a bantamweight bout in opposition to fellow Brazilian Pedro Munhoz. Welterweight title contenders Michael Chiesa and Vicente Luque meet earlier on the pay-per-view portion of the present.

Lewis is normally the epitome of a fan-friendly fighter, and he is only one knockout away from taking the UFC’s profession lead in such stoppages. Gane is sort of the other, with a muay thai-influenced model reliant on protection and cautious hanging quantity — two issues that are not normally appreciated by bloodthirsty cageside followers.

Gane feels ready to deal with Lewis after sparring with huge, cumbersome coaching companions who had been inspired to throw huge proper palms — Lewis’ speciality, in fact.

“All people is aware of he has a bomb in his hand, so we labored on it,” Gane mentioned.

Likewise, the usually pot-bellied Lewis says he did intensive operating and cardiovascular coaching — however to not match Gane’s athleticism and stamina.

“It’s probably not to have cardio for 5 rounds,” Lewis mentioned. “Simply be thrilling for 5 rounds, as a result of he’s a boring fighter. He likes to take a seat again and do leg kicks, however I do wish to have an thrilling battle in my hometown. … I battle straight off emotion each time I’m in there, so I imagine it’s going to assist me out lots.”

Lewis is aware of Gane may decide him aside with leg kicks and elusiveness, however he stays assured within the abilities that acquired him right here. He’ll preserve his power and anticipate the chance to throw the thunderous punches which have accomplished in so many opponents earlier than.

“He’s an actual energetic striker, and I’m not with all that,” Lewis mentioned. “I like to choose my pictures and take my time. But when some opening is there, if he will get shut sufficient, I’m going to point out up.”

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