UFC heavyweight Derrick Lewis is feeling like a new man after undergoing treatment for a longstanding back problem.
Lewis (20-5 MMA, 11-3 UFC) recently worked with a specialist who also treated golf star Tiger Woods and former basketball star Tracy McGrady. He said after being shot “like 20 times” with needles in his trouble spot, he was sore for three days.
Then, in his words, he was “brand new.”
“I was 100 percent yesterday,” Lewis told MMAjunkie Radio on Wednesday. “I was taking it slow the last week, but I really turned it up yesterday, and it was feeling real good.”
That’s a considerable improvement from where Lewis was after his previous octagon appearance, a universally panned fight with Francis Ngannou at UFC 226. Lewis said he re-injured his back and was a shell of himself during the victory.
In light of his recent recovery, Lewis said that’s a good description for where he’s been since he started fighting in the UFC.
“I feel like if I had done this a couple of years ago, I would have been champion,” Lewis said. “I believe I would have dominated a lot of my fights. To say I’ve been winning with the type of injury I’ve been dealing with, it’s been a blessing. Now, hopefully the fans really see my potential.”
Lewis’ chance comes at UFC 229, where he’s signed on for a co-headliner against Alexander Volkov (30-6 MMA, 4-0 UFC). The ex-Bellator champ most recently knocked out ex-UFC champ Fabricio Werdum, an opponent Lewis was supposed to fight last October at UFC 217 before his back seized up.
Although the promotion expects the event to be the biggest in its history, Lewis ignores the hype behind the main event, a lightweight title bout between champ Khabib Nurmagomedov and ex-champ Conor McGregor. Asked whether he cares about the success of the event, Lewis said, “Not at all. Not even one percent, because I’m not getting paid extra.”
He added: “I’m not getting none of that pay-per-view sales or anything like that. So I don’t give a damn. If they pay me different, then yeah, I’ll be excited. I’ll be trying to push the fight even more. But I’m not getting paid for it, so I’m not worried about trying to make sure everybody comes out and watches the fight. I don’t give a damn.”
The issue of money is pretty cut and dry for Lewis, who was taken aback by a recent claim from UFC President Dana White that the promotion is now worth $7 billion.
“I was trying to add up how much I was getting paid compared to how much they’re worth, and I was like, ‘Damn, we all getting (expletive),’” Lewis said.
But don’t paint Lewis as a champion of his fellow fighters. Mainly, he’s trying to secure the future of his family, and his only priority is to seek the fights with the greatest rate of return. If that means never vying for a belt, he’s OK with that.
Lewis humorously shot down Volkov’s request on social media to book the fight for UFC Fight Night 136, which serves as the promotion’s debut in Russia. But behind his quip was a real demand.
“If they would have offered me more money, that was the only way I would have gone over there,” Lewis said.
As it stands, the 33-year-old Louisiana native will ply his trade in Las Vegas, which hosts UFC 229 on Oct. 6 at T-Mobile Arena. On Friday, he heads back to the specialist to get official clearance for the fight, although he has already been cranking up his output in anticipation of his return.
“Before, I had to train for a little bit, then rest, because my back would flare up,” he said. “Now, I don’t have to worry about that any more. I can go 15 minutes, or 25 minutes, without it hurting.”
The main difference between the past and present, Lewis said, is that he can throw his right hand. Before, the strike sent a surge of pain through his back. Even then, he threw it and knocked out opponent after opponent.
But now, he can turn his hips and really fire. That’s a scary prospect.
For more on the UFC 229, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.