Ilir Latifi always wanted to fight Derrick Lewis and now he has gotten his wish.
On the main card of UFC 247, Latifi will move up in weight to battle Lewis.
When the fight was announced many were confused as to why it was happening. The Swede is on a two-fight losing streak and not in the top-10 at light heavyweight. Lewis, meanwhile, returned to the win column last time out and is ranked in the top-five.
When this fight was offered to Latifi, he immediately accepted for one simple reason.
“I thought it would be cool to have one of the biggest guys fight one of the smallest guys. I was pretty small at light heavyweight and heavyweight I’ll be smaller, but I don’t mind fighting the biggest guys. So it would be cool fighting Derrick Lewis,” Latifi told BJPENN.com. “Derrick is a tough opponent and always brings a show. I never run away from hard fights, I’ve always fought the top guys, so when they offered it I took it.”
Why Latifi decided to move up to heavyweight was due to the weight cut. He says it was not easy to get down to 205 pounds and the recovery was also hard. So, he decided to give heavyweight a try, where he began his MMA career.
“I did the first fight of my career at heavyweight and the last two or three fights I did at light heavyweight was a real struggle getting down in weight like I used to. I used to never have that problem and I never recovered after the weigh-ins. I’ve always had it in mind to try heavyweight in the UFC so that is why I made that decision now.”
Not only is Ilir Latifi fighting a top-ranked opponent, but he is also fighting Lewis in his hometown. He knows that will give the American more motivation to win, but he plans on spoiling the party.
“Derrick is fighting in his hometown and he’s coming in hungry and did great in his last fight. I think he’ll try and put on a show for the home fans,” Latifi explained. “I’m coming after this division and I’ll do all I can to win the fight. Whether it be standing, wrestling, taking him down, I’ll be ready for it. Derrick is a powerful puncher but he’s also a very smart fighter. It is a very great challenge that I’m looking forward to.”
If Latifi can pull off the upset he would become a top-10 heavyweight. He knows it would line up him up to be close to a title shot. So, the stakes are high for the Swede at UFC 247.
“I’m just focused on this fight and taking it very seriously. You know we will see what happens,” Latifi said. “A win over him would put me high up in the division and after that a lot of things are possible.”
In the end, Ilir Latifi is eager to share the Octagon with Derrick Lewis and will look to surprise many. He’s set to open the pay-per-view so he knows eyes will be on him, so winning this fight is crucial.
Yet, even if he wins, the Swede isn’t ruling out a return to light heavyweight after.
“We don’t know. Let’s see what the future has in store for us. Maybe I’ll go back to light heavyweight again. Right now, I see myself fighting at heavyweight,” he concluded.
Who do you think will win the fight between Ilir Latifi and Derrick Lewis at UFC 247?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 2/4/2020.