A star was born at UFC 229, and I’m not talking about Khabib Nurmagomedov. I’m referring to Derrick Lewis, who won a “Performance of the Night” bonus for his insane third-round comeback KO over Alexander Volkov in a key heavyweight bout. Lewis was on his way to losing a unanimous decision before landing a monster right hand and finishing Volkov with vicious ground-and-pound with just 11 seconds left in the fight. He then pulled off one of the greatest post-fight interviews in the history of the sport as he removed his pants, claiming his “balls were hot” and then telling UFC commentator Joe Rogan he would like to go on his podcast and smoke weed with him. All of a sudden Lewis made everyone forget about his terrible fight with Francis Ngannou back at UFC 226 and start to back him as one of the top heavyweight title contenders on the UFC roster.
While Lewis himself said that he wasn’t satisfied with his performance and that he wanted to go back to the gym and fix his cardio, it appears the UFC has other plans. According to a report from Brett Okamoto of ESPN, the UFC is considering booking Lewis against UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier in the main event of next month’s UFC 230. This fight is not official yet and it might not come to fruition given the limited training camp both men would have considering the card is less than a month away, but the fact the UFC is even considering booking this fight shows the faith the company has in Lewis as a potential star for the promotion. The UFC is desperate for superstars and while Lewis might not ever reach the level of someone like Conor McGregor, he very well could become a secondary star that could help the promotion sell some pay-per-views, especially on a card like UFC 230 that is lacking a credible main event at the moment.
Not only is Lewis one of the most exciting heavyweights in the sport due to his insane knockout power and his ability to come back and win late in the fight when he’s down on the scorecards, but he has one of the best personalities of any fighter in the sport. He’s extremely popular on social media and after his post-fight interview at UFC 230 his follower count on Instagram reached over one million, which is incredible for someone who isn’t a true superstar. It’s clear that fans are taking a liking to him, and with the UFC needing new stars, the promotion seems to want to see what it has with Lewis and give him a shot to main event UFC 230. Having said that, the matchup with Cormier is no walk in the park. Cormier has way better wrestling, obviously, not to mention superior cardio and from what we’ve seen a better chin. Lewis can knock anyone out with one punch, but Cormier is a champion for a reason. If the fight does materialize, Lewis will be a massive underdog.
The UFC seems to have struck gold with Lewis. He was never supposed to be anything more than a fun heavyweight that could get into some entertaining brawls, but he’s turned into a star with his combination of insane knockout power and his incredible personality. The UFC needs fighters like Lewis who not only can fight inside the Octagon and draw eyeballs because of their entertaining fighting style, but also entertain fans outside of it. When they do, the UFC rewards them. Not many would have expected Lewis to get this fight against Cormier, but now you see what happens when a fighter has the right combination of fighting skills and personality. We need more fighters like Lewis in this sport. Guys like Lewis are great for MMA, and the UFC knows it. Now let’s wait and see what happens for this fight at UFC 230. Until then, we can enjoy Lewis’ amazing comeback against Volkov and his ridiculous post-fight interview with Rogan. Lewis is a treasure and we should appreciate him while he’s still in his fighting prime, because as we know, this sport is unforgiving and one day you’re at the top and the next you’re at the bottom. And right now, Lewis is up at the top with few others.