This week, during International Fight Week, former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey will be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. Days later, on the main card of UFC 226, UFC heavyweight contender Derrick Lewis will battle Francis Ngannou.
Lewis, of course, has previously expressed his… admiration… for Rousey, who is married to his former opponent Travis Browne. He claims he sent her flowers when he learned she was being inducted in the UFC Hall of Fame, and that he’s nervous she might be watching his fight from cage-side at UFC 226.
“I already sent her flowers,” Lewis told FloCombat this week. “You’re trying to distract me. I’ve got to fight extra hard, she might go to the fight. She might be watching. Now I’m nervous.”
The good news for Lewis is that any Rousey-induced nerves are likely to be counterbalanced by his new efforts in the training room. He says he’s been training far more rigorously ahead of his scrap with Ngannou. He’s even been watching his diet.
“Let’s just say I’ve been training a lot more than I have been,” Lewis said. “My past fights, I probably only trained 30 minutes a day. Now I’m training at least two or three hours a day. I’m training more serious. I’m doing everything that I needed to be doing that a mixed martial artist is supposed to be doing. Like trying to eat right ’cause at first, I wasn’t eating right at all. I’m trying to eat right. I’m still slipping up here and there.”
“Just working on everything, not just my stand up,” Lewis added. “I’m working on everything, my wrestling, jiu-jitsu, conditioning, everything. I’m taking it more serious.”
If Lewis’ efforts in the gym pay off, and he beats Ngannou, he’s hoping for a title shot — but only if he wins by knockout. If he disappoints the fans and wins by decision, he doesn’t think he deserves that chance.
“If I knock him out, it’s a title shot,” Lewis said. “If I win by decision, then I should fight Curtis Blaydes.”
Do you think Derrick Lewis — nervous or otherwise — can defeat Francis Ngannou at UFC 226?
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 7/3/2018.