Good news for fans of the brash talking, hard-charging and even harder hitting heavyweight from Cypress, Texas, Derrick Lewis. “The Black Beast” spoke with Ariel Helwani of the MMA Hour and said do not be so sure you have seen the last of him inside of the octagon.
Lewis almost did not make it to the cage to compete against another outspoken fighter and the hometown Kiwi, Mark Hunt, at UFC Fight Night 110 in Auckland, New Zealand due to a back injury. However, true to his nickname, the former Legacy FC Heavyweight Championship trained and fought through the injury before ultimately coming up short when he lost via TKO stoppage late in the fourth round. It was only his third loss in the UFC.
The big man from the Gulf Coast said that the injury that he has been dealing with since 2011 not only played a factor in his performance that night, but it has been a problem during training for most of his career. Before that loss, Lewis looked to be closing in on a shot at the UFC title after winning six fights in a row (five of which were by KO) dating back to the Fall of 2015. In the interview with Helwani, the Texan said that he is hoping to return to action by late 2017 depending on the results of an MRI on his back scheduled for later this week.
“We’re just hoping that [I] don’t have to get surgery, because I thought about it a little bit, and it’s not going to be my last fight,” Lewis said with confidence. “I’m going to try to get back in there as soon as I can, and we’ll find out Wednesday, see what’s going on and if it’s not too serious. Hopefully, I can get back in there before the end of the year.”
The reoccurring injury reared it’s ugly head once again after he was already in New Zealand just days before the fight.
“Like two days before, my back was just real sore, and I knew — I was just hoping that I could work through it. I got a massage the day before and it just made everything even worse. And as the fight went on, it was just getting sorer and sorer…That was the second time it ever happened in a fight. The first time, I still won in the third round. I knocked the guy out in the third round whenever that happened the first time. And it happened again in the Mark Hunt fight, and it was like, damn, I couldn’t move at all. The best thing I could do was just stand there and just take it because it couldn’t move anymore.”
Lewis went on to say that the injury was hurting him so badly during the contest that he felt like he “couldn’t throw a punch because [he] couldn’t rotate [his] hips.”
The stoppage, he says, was a blessing in disguise. After the loss, to the surprise of fans watching that had no idea about the injury that Derrick had been dealing with, Lewis announced that he was seriously considering hanging up his gloves for good. That tune has now changed and as we know, fighters say all sorts of crazy things after fights have ended. This time was just odd because fans are used to Lewis saying things that you get a chuckle out of, like the time he said that a body kick from Travis Browne had not hurt him, he just appeared that way because he forgot to go “number 2” before the fight…then he asked “Where’s (Browne’s girlfriend) Ronda Rousey’s fine ass at?” Now he admits that the announcement of an early retirement was “just heat of the moment.” Both before and after the defeat, heavyweight contender Francis Ngannou, a man that Lewis has previously called out, took some shots at “The Black Beasts” on Twitter.
Lewis said I win Arlovski because he's old with 37 but Mark Hunt 43 years old beat he like a baby 😂😂😂
— Francis NGannou (@francis_ngannou) June 11, 2017
Lewis you should use Google to figure out where New Zealand is and the weather. Lol https://t.co/x9iaet4Lkn
— Francis NGannou (@francis_ngannou) June 13, 2017
Lewis was quick to respond to the criticism from his fellow fighters during Monday’s interview:
“Whenever the booty-scratcher started talking sh*t…That guy is not impressed with nobody, so it’s normal for him to say anything stupid”
He also addressed his former foe Travis Browne’s critique of his performance:
“Travis Browne don’t know what’s he thinking. Travis, he’s out there, man. That guy has been knocked out so many times, he’s been rocked so many times, he don’t know what to say. He’s just trying to stay relevant. He better be worrying about [his next fight] and not worried about me. It’s already done and over with between me and him.”
While Lewis would love to shut the Cameroonian-Frenchman up in his comeback fight, but for now, he is focused on getting healthy. His current plan is to take time off and heal up after fighting three times in both 2014 and 2015, and then four times in 2016, followed by two fights in less than four months during 2017.
“That’s one of the reasons why I said I wanted to retire, because whenever I go into a fight, I’m already thinking about some evil type stuff, and it was really affecting my household.” Lewis lamented. “So I was like, I just need some time off a little bit, try to work on my relationship with my family and stuff like that. And just by fighting all the time like that, it just put me in a bad mood all the time. And it just felt that stepping away for a little bit would be the best thing to do.”
As for the loss, Lewis is taking it in stride just as his outgoing personality would make you think that he would.
“It was still a good fight though. It was something that I expected, a tough fight. I didn’t want an easy fight, I wanted a tough fight, so I got what I wanted, it’s just a learning lesson. Like a lot of people have said, it’s not a bad loss to loss to Mark Hunt, so it’s really like a learning lesson. I know what I need to do to get prepared for my next battle.”
Exclusive: Mike Ekundayo, “He could come with anything, I don’t care”
In a little less than a week, Rise of Champions crowns its inaugural bantamweight champion. The crowning of the first 135 lb. champion marks the young promotions first champion. It makes sense why the promotion owned and operated by UK MMA star, Brad Pickett, and Team Titan head coach, Mickey Papas plan to crown the promotions first champion in the bantamweight division. Pickett competed in the division throughout his tenure with the WEC, and ultimately the entity which absorbed the light weight promotion, the UFC. Even more-so, two young and rising prospects of the division. One undefeated in his professional and amateur career, the other riding a seven consecutive victories, five by submission. The two meet February 17th, Mike Ekundayo puts his career unbeaten streak up against Jonas Magard’s at ROC 5, for the aforementioned, inaugural bantamweight championship.
Speaking to the undefeated Ekundayo before his fight, he believes this opportunity to be inevitable. Born in Hackney, (a borough of London) early in life, Ekundayo was no stranger to cramming his belongings into large cardboard boxes. At the age of 7, he moved from Hackney to Herne Hill, a district located in South London. Two years later he found himself in similar situation, moving from his vaguely new home in Herne Hill to Brixton. A road trip in the car to his new home, took approximately 5 minutes.
It is admittedly, not an easy life. In a harrowing article describing the horrors of gang life in London by the metro.uk, former gang member turned community activist, made the claim, “When you are from Brixton, from Peckham, west London, anywhere in London, you are seeing hardship where a lot of communities can’t reach their full potential”.
In his own words, Ekundayo describes his home as, “not the best start to have in your life. It’s not the best upbringing”. But that couldn’t matter any less for him. Not only does the London resident consistently work to grow his potential, he gets to see it every day. His coaches Brad Pickett and Mickey Papas hold the knowledge as well as first-hand experience, increasing his limits with every session. “We’re all close”, speaking of his coaches and team. “My head coach is Mickey Papas, he’s very knowable in the game. He’s been around for a very long time. He teaches me a lot, I can learn a lot of stuff from Mickey Papas. Sometimes I just think, how does he know all of this? Where did he get this information from?”
He continued, “While I was coming up through amateur, Brad (Pickett) was still an active fighter, but nowadays he’s taken a coaching approach. So he’s coaching us prospects getting us to where he got to and further… He’s been through it all, gotten to the top, and stayed at the top”.
Further discussing his coach, “For UK MMA, you could definitely call Brad a legend. He’s done a lot in his career, and someone who I rate highly as an MMA fighter is Demetrious Johnson, and of course Brad has got a win over (him). I feel like just being surrounded by someone like Brad, you’re working towards the right things. When he passes information onto you, you respect it that bit more because of far he got in his career. He’s definitely given me the right guidance, I trust his guidance”.
When it comes to the upcoming title fight, confidence poured out from where praise and respect had once been. “I just think it’s my time, to be honest. I really do believe it’s my time for all of this. The work I put in, certain things become inevitable”, he said. “I actually called this after I won my third fight, I called for belts and big shows. I spoke it to existence”. He continued, “It’s my time to finally to get a strap of some sort. All the straps is what we’re going for, all of them. We’re going for every one”.
“Rise of Champions is my show… That’s how I feel when I’m performing on ROC, it’s just my show, it’s my time to shine. Everyone knows who there here to see, there not really there to see the other guys. It’s my time, it’s my show and I’m going to put on a show on February 17th and I’m going to win that belt”.
The infectious nature of his positive attitude was palpable. Although we only spoke through small rectangular devices, I could feel his energy in the room. His attitude shined brightest when talking about what it would mean to be the first ever ROC Bantamweight champion. Ekundayo claimed, “It just means a lot to have my first belt in anything to be honest… Within myself, I call myself a champion, every day. But now, other people would have to call me a champion because I’ve got a belt… And one thing I really want to do is, which sounds a bit weird, I just want to take the belt home to my area, to Brixton.”
“I just want to take it to my area, and just show the people of that area what hard work can achieve… I want to just take it to my people and show them that not for nothing, we are from Brixton, it’s not the best start to have in your life. It’s not the best upbringing but you can rise above it and you can achieve your goals and that’s what the belt will mean”.
When the conversation shifted to the topic of his opponent, Ekundayo had less encouraging words rolling off his tongue. Jonas Magard, the second half of the ROC 5 main event, holds a record of 7-4. Currently he owns a seven fight win streak after starting his career 1-3. Ekundayo thought, “He did fight quite decent guys in his three loses… but in the seven fight win streak, none of his opponents have been of caliber”.
He elaborated further, “What’s in my thoughts is more me, then it is of him. So, he could come with anything, I don’t care. I’m just focused on how I’m going to be picture perfect. How I’m going to paint a masterpiece, how I’m going to make it a beautifully perfect performance. That’s what my primary focus is on, so what he does to me is irrelevant, I’m just going to focus on how I’m going to be perfect on the night of February 17th”.
UFC 222 Re-Worked with Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya, and Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega
UFC 222 has been saved, and it didn’t take a superhero to lift the burning boulder which was Max Holloway’s injury and withdrawal. All it took was a female named Cyborg and a man with a demeanor so smooth, he could be mistaken for an alter-ego. Cris Cyborg now serves as the UFC 222 main event when she defends her featherweight belt against Yana Kunitskaya. Frankie Edgar bumped down to the co-main event to face Brian Ortega in what is likely a title eliminator. The news of the UFC 222 revival originally stemmed from a report by MMAFighting.com and confirmed later in the evening by the UFC.
— UFC (@ufc) February 8, 2018
Over the course of the week, reports surrounded the Las Vegas card and whether it would survive. Multiple options were reportedly being mulled over; cancelling the card outright, changing the pay-per-view (PPV) to a ‘Fight Night’ with an Edgar vs. Ortega main event, Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2 main event, among others. Ultimately, the promotion landed on Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya as the new main event, while also booking Brian Ortega.
This adjustment of the card places their women’s Featherweight champion in the second PPV main event in three months. Cris Cyborg recently put her undisputed Featherweight title on the line against Holly Holm at the year ending card, UFC 219. She successfully defended her belt by unanimous decision, in what was an amazing technical display from the Brazilian. In her octagon career, Cyborg is undefeated in her four appearances with three KO/TKO stoppages.
The second half of the new main event, Yana Kunitskaya, makes her UFC debut against the scariest women on the roster. If the 145 lb. champion was not enough of a challenge, Kunitskaya also makes her first appearance in the division since defeating Cindy Dandois in December of 2010. Of Russia descent, her most recent performances came inside the Invicta FC cage. At the female-only promotion, she posted a record of 1-1, with 1 No Contest. Her loss and no contest, both came at the hands of former UFC Featherweight title challenger, Tonya Evinger.
Turning to the co-main event, both fighters have been relatively inactive but, for good reason. Brian Ortega amazingly forced perennial men’s Featherweight contender, Cub Swanson, to tap in the second round of their ‘Fight Night: Fresno’ contest. Ortega fought twice in 2017, but more-so stayed inactive following his stoppage victory over Swanson. The Californian contender announced his desire to wait in line for the next title shot following the recent victory.
For Frankie Edgar, his last fight took place at UFC 211 when he absolutely demolished young and rising star, Yair Rodriguez. A card which took place last May. While Ortega holds an undefeated record, Edgar is undefeated in his previous 9 fights, excluding people named Jose Aldo.
UFC 222 takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 3rd.
UFC Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker Announces Birth of Third Child
Times seem dull and dreary for the UFC’s Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker. The New Zealand born fighter withdrew from the promotions event debut in the eastern region of his residence, Australia. UFC 221, which takes place this Saturday, booked Whittaker to defend his title for the first time against former division champion, Luke Rockhold. His withdrawal was due to mistreatment of a serious staph infection inside of the Australians stomach.
It couldn’t get much worse, having to disappoint fans, and missing the first UFC event in eastern Australia. As it turns out, it could not get worse for Whittaker. Life only got better, as he had the pleasure of announcing the birth of his third child.
His new child is the champions third and first girl. Information regarding his child is limited as this moment is a tender and special time for the Whittaker family.
UFC 221 takes place in Perth, Australia at Perth Arena on February 11th. The cards main event features Whittakers short notice replacement, Yoel Romero taking on Luke Rockhold. Much to the satiety of fans, an interim belt is not in the equation in this instance.
Thank God. Excuse me, thank Dana White.
UFC 221 also features the ‘Super Samoan’ Mark Hunt vs. Curtis Blaydes, Tai Tuivasa faces Cyril Asker, Alexander Volkanovski vs. Jeremy Kennedy and more.
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