This Saturday night in Madison Square Garden at UFC 230, Daniel Cormier steps back inside the octagon to defend his newly won UFC heavyweight title against the hard-hitting Derrick Lewis.
Lewis has become one of the more popular fighters on the UFC roster lately, mainly due to his colorful personality, brutally honest sense of humor, as well as his lackadaisical mentality when it comes to training for a fight.
But unlike everybody else, the UFC heavyweight champion does not buy into this portrayal of Lewis.
As a matter of fact, Cormier feels Lewis is actually a whole lot better than he seems.
He also believes that underneath Lewis’s plain, seemingly lethargic nature, lies a hungry, motivated fighter aiming to take his belt at UFC 23o.
“I believe he trains a lot harder than [he says],” Daniel Cormier said on The MMA Hour recently (transcript via MMA Fighting). “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.”
Cormier then continued by discussing Lewis’s tough upbringing.
“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,” he 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,” he added.
“I know everything about everybody that I fight. 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.”