UFC heavyweight Derrick Lewis has a quirky twist to his training regimen

Kevin Iole
Yahoo SportsSeptember 4, 2014
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Derrick Lewis fights Matt Mitrione on Friday at the Foxwoods Resort in Ledyard, Conn. (Getty)

Derrick Lewis is about the same size as former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, and he has the same kind of aggressive, attack-oriented style that defined Lesnar's brief career.

But the last thing Lewis, who meets Matt Mitrione on Friday in a heavyweight bout on a strong UFC card at the Foxwoods Resort in Ledyard, Conn., wants to hear is a comparison between himself and Lesnar.

While Lesnar accomplished more in his UFC career than Lewis has, the massive man from New Orleans doesn't see it as all that flattering.

Derrick Lewis, above, doesn't like being compared to Brock Lesnar. (Getty)
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Derrick Lewis, above, doesn't like being compared to Brock Lesnar. (Getty)

"There's a big difference between me and Brock Lesnar, man," Lewis said. "The difference is, Brock is scared to get hit. Me, I don't care about getting hit. When he would get hit, he'd curl up like a little baby. I'm there to fight and getting hit is a part of fighting. That's the difference between me and him."

Lewis is a massive heavyweight (6-foot-3, 260) who is big enough to be considered for a key spot on superstar boxer Floyd Mayweather's bodyguard staff, which is perhaps physically the largest group ever assembled.

That Lewis, 29, is even in the UFC is something of a miracle in and of itself. He spent three years in prison for a violation of probation, a period of time he calls "horrible beyond words."

He turned to fighting almost as a last resort. He was broke, with a child on the way, and had nowhere to turn. He'd fought frequently on the streets as a child growing up in New Orleans and Houston, and he was clearly good at it.

He needed a job, he had a skill and so he turned to mixed martial arts.

He was in the game to fight, to do damage, but his early days of training were trying. He had briefly trained with George Foreman's son, George, in boxing, and knew nothing about grappling or wrestling.

The next thing he knew, he found himself smothered by guys in the gym who were holding him down because he wasn't a grappler and they'd didn't want to get concussed.

He eventually figured it out enough that he made it to Bellator and then became the Legacy Fighting Championship's heavyweight title-holder.

He's 2-0 in the UFC and facing his biggest challenge in Mitrione. He's not looking past Mitrione, he said, but he does concede that his eyes are looking down the road at champion Cain Velasquez.

He mentioned Velasquez's name in his post-fight comments in Las Vegas after obliterating Guto Inocente at "The Ultimate Fighter 19" finale.

Lewis said he believes Mitrione "has a lot of weaknesses" and said he'll exploit them Friday.

He's not preparing as if he'll face Mitrione, a very underrated fighter, but rather as if he's going to fight Velasquez.

"I believe the only way to do this is to get prepared like you're going to fight the best guy in the class," Lewis said. "So I'm training like I'm getting ready to fight Cain. Obviously, that's what I want, to [defeat Velasquez and win] the title. I [trained like] that even before I got to the UFC.

"If I'm ready to fight the best there is, then I'll be as ready as I can be to fight."

Lewis is a long way away from challenging Velasquez, and he may never get there. But he has fight-changing punching power and he's wise enough to understand he can't be one-dimensional.

The Mitrione fight figures to be a good test for him. Mitrione is 7-3 in the UFC, and his best win is over Shawn Jordan, a guy who scored a controversial decision over a much more inexperienced Lewis.

Lewis knows the ground game is an essential part of MMA. (Getty)
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Lewis knows the ground game is an essential part of MMA. (Getty)

But Mitrione has come up short when he's stepped up, losing fights to Cheick Kongo, Roy Nelson and Brendan Schaub. Mitrione, a former NFL player, has good hands and athletic ability and is something of a gate-keeper.

If Lewis can get past Mitrione, he'll move into a position where it won't be a pipe dream to get a fight with Velasquez.

Lewis not only wants to win, but he's determined to do it in the kind of manner that would make UFC president Dana White a lifelong fan.

"There is this overwhelming excitement that comes over you [when the bell rings] and beast mode kicks in," Lewis said. "When we're going, I'm looking to put a beating on someone."

If he does it a couple of more times, he may get that chance to prove himself against the man he's trained for so many times before.

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