Daniel Cormier doesn’t buy Derrick Lewis ‘facade’: ’He has fought from the very pits of hell’

NEW YORK — Derrick Lewis doesn’t take life or fighting too seriously. And maybe he doesn’t want us to take him too seriously, either.

Lewis, with his Instagram filled with hilarious memes and absurd viral videos, is unlike any fighter in the UFC. His interviews are unorthodox and hilarious. He admits to not answering seriously much of the time, because he hates getting the same old questions.

After his last-seconds knockout of Alexander Volkov at UFC 229, Lewis took off his shorts. When interviewer Joe Rogan asked him why he did that, Lewis quipped, “My balls was hot.” That video clip went nuclear, leading Lewis to gain about 750,000 new Instagram followers in the last four weeks.

Now, less than a month removed from that Hail Mary KO and legendary post-fight speech, Lewis is fighting for the UFC heavyweight title against Daniel Cormier in the main event of UFC 230 here at Madison Square Garden.

It has been a whirlwind and Lewis is laughing all the way to the bank. It’s a hell of a story. Lewis says before this training camp he only worked out 30 minutes a day. This is a guy who makes jokes about eating Popeye’s Chicken and having diabetes and has actually pulled out of fights hours out of the contest due to a bad back.

Lewis, 33, says he’s not skilled, not a martial artist and has poor cardio. After UFC 229, he said he was nowhere near ready for a title shot and a five-round fight.

So how did “The Black Beast” get here? The pinnacle of the sport? It’s easy, according to Cormier, if you don’t believe a word Lewis says.

Cormier said Wednesday at UFC 230 open workouts that he believes Lewis is playing the fool. When you look deeper, you see a fighter who has won nine of 10 and has 18 knockouts in 21 wins.

“I believe he trains a lot harder than [he says],” Cormier said. “I believe he’s not really as hurt as he pretends to be when he’s against the side of the Octagon. Derrick is a little smarter than you guys think. But the problem is he’s smart in a way that you learn when you grow up in urban areas. He’s kind of got a little more street smarts. But I grew up in those same places. I can see through his facade.

“He’s not a dummy. This guy knows what he’s doing. He’s trying to trick us all, but don’t think that Derrick Lewis is some ignorant guy.”

Just the opposite, Cormier said. You see, Cormier has done his research. He’s looked into Lewis’ past. He saw his prison stay of more than three years. Lewis was convicted of aggravated assault and probation violation while he was in college. He saw Lewis working himself back as a tow-truck driver in Houston.

“This is a guy that went to jail as a youth and honestly when you go to prison as a kid, especially a young black kid, a lot of people give up on you,” Cormier said. “In that cell, you tell yourself a lot of things. You say, ‘I’m gonna do better when I get out.’ I’m gonna be this and I’m gonna be that. And the vast majority of the guys who do say those things, they never change. They go back and do the same thing. Derrick Lewis didn’t, right? Derrick Lewis became a millionaire. Derrick Lewis is fighting for the heavyweight championship of the world. There’s something different about him and that’s why I know what’s in front of me this weekend.

“So let him try and trick you guys. But pay very close attention to who he really is. He’s a smart guy and he ain’t tricking me.”

Cormier said he found out a lot about Lewis in the last four weeks. And that knowledge has only made him think Lewis is more dangerous as a foe.

“I know everything about everybody that I fight,” Cormier said. “I learn, I research them. They become my focus, they become my life for the time I’m training for them. I know everything about Derrick. And when learning about Derrick Lewis, I didn’t think, ‘Oh, this is gonna be an easier fight.’ All it made me believe was that it was gonna be tougher than people or the general public may believe. All it made me understand is that him knocking out Alexander Volkov wasn’t the exception — it was his expectation. Because he has fought from the very pits of hell and he scraped his way back up to who he is today. So him winning a fight with 15 seconds left, that doesn’t surprise me. This guy won the biggest fight in the world by doing and changing his life path.”

Cormier almost sounds like a supporter of Lewis the way he’s been talking about him. “DC” admitted that he got a kick out of Lewis’ UFC 229 post-fight speech.

But, Cormier said, make no mistake. He might not dislike Lewis; he might respect Lewis. But that doesn’t change much when it comes to how he thinks things will play out Saturday.

“I’m a fan of his story, yes,” Cormier said. “I love the way he fights, I think he’s great. I’m a normal guy. I love his Instagram, I think it’s hilarious. But I love Dan Henderson. I’ve been watching Dan Henderson since I was a kid. Aspiring to be him and be in the Olympics. And look what I did to him. So I’m gonna go and try to rip Derrick Lewis apart. There are levels to this fight game. I’ve said this before. And I’ve shown I’ve competed at a level above most people for a real long time.”

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