Ahead of his interim heavyweight title homecoming this weekend at UFC 264 in Houston, Texas — Derrick ‘The Black Beast’ Lewis has spoken of the pressure he faces to make history for ‘H-Town’ by clinching a promotional title by handing opposite, Ciryl ‘Bon Gamin’ Gane his first professional defeat.
Headlining the Toyota Centre event, Lewis, who was widely expected to challenge Francis Ngannou for the undisputed heavyweight championship — until the promotion elected to introduce an interim title, which would be contested against French standout, Gane.
In the midst of an eye-catching four-fight winning spree, Lewis, a one-time undisputed title challenger, is also the most prolific knockout artist in the history of the UFC’s heavyweight division.
Earning an expected title challenge against Ngannou, which ultimately led to an interim title tilt opposite Gane, the 36-year-old stopped the streaking Elevation Fight Team wrestler, Curtis Blaydes with a thunderous one-punch knockout at UFC Vegas 19 in February.
Speaking at yesterday evening’s press conference ahead of UFC 265 — Lewis admitted that he was feeling the pressure of delivering a title for Houston, at the second time of trying — as well as on home soil to boot.
“Of course, it’s a little pressure because Houston never had a heavyweight champion before so I wanna be the first one,” Lewis said. “I wanna make history and it gotta go down.“
As far as predictions go, Lewis referred to his knack for knocking opponents out inside the Octagon; “It don’t matter who it is,” Lewis said. “They all gonna end the same way, looking up at them lights.“
Scoring a stunning 20 separate knockout wins across his professional career, Lewis has bested the likes of Gabriel Gonzaga, Roy Nelson, Shamil Abdurakhimov, Travis Browne, Marcin Tybura, the above-mentioned, Ngannou, Alexader Volkov, Blagoy Ivanov, Ilir Latifi, and Aleksei Oleinik.
In his close victory over Latifi in his last visit to the Toyota Centre back in February of last year, Lewis explained that he felt some pressure on that occasion as well. And ahead of his battle with Gane, admitted that the same pressure is at the forefront of his mind.
“I feel like I deal with the pressure every fight because no one believes in me,” Lewis told ESPN MMA reporter, Brett Okamoto. “I always wanna go out there and prove everyone wrong. It’s just me about being in my hometown, that’s where I feel the most pressure because I’m here. I fought here last year and I felt pressure, but not as much as I do right now.“
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