Lewis on fighting Ngannou: 'America likes black on black violence'
Derrick Lewis (top) grapples with Ruan Potts during UFC 184 at Staples Center on February 28, 2015 in Los Angeles. (Harry How/Getty Images)
Derrick Lewis and Francis Ngannou will surely end up squaring off in the octagon before their UFC careers are done.
In the heavyweight division, all paths inevitably end up crossing at one point or another, and with Ngannou and Lewis barnstorming through the big-man ranks and climbing towards contention at essentially the same time, their names are increasingly linked.
In Lewis’ eyes, though, there’s more to the reason why so many people want to see him fight Ngannou.
“I live in America, and America likes black on black violence,” Lewis said, before doubling down when he was asked whether he was joking. “I’m dead serious.”
It would be difficult to argue the fact that both Ngannou and Lewis are black doesn’t play some sort of a role in the wishes of so many fans to see them fight, but other than race and their chosen profession, the two men couldn’t be more different.
While Lewis is a born-and-raised native of Houston, Tex.; Ngannou was born in Cameroon and lived for most of his life in Paris before moving to Las Vegas to train a couple of weeks ago.
And yet, the two seem to be linked in the eyes of many fans and media, who seem to ask each fighter about the other almost every time they’re interviewed.
Even Lewis couldn’t help but compare the way he’s being treated by the UFC to their treatment of Ngannou.
“That guy from France, they did a whole world tour with him but I’m right down the street (in Houston) so I had to drive down here (to Dallas),” Lewis said.
When the UFC brought Ngannou to Las Vegas in March for a promotional appearance during UFC 209 fight week, the Frenchman made it clear he wasn’t impressed by Lewis’ performances in the octagon so far in his career.
Asked about those comments at his own promotional workout on Thursday in Dallas, Lewis refused to take the bait.
“That’s fine, that’s what everybody says,” said Lewis, who fights Mark Hunt on June 10 in New Zealand. “Just get him up in there with me, he’s one of the guys I want to fight next.
“I’m impressed (with Ngannou), even though he hasn’t fought any top guys. He fought that old guy Andrei (Arlovski), but other than that he hasn’t fought anyone.”
Those aren’t exactly fighting words, but Lewis isn’t hiding the fact that he’s got Ngannou on his mind.
Just like the rest of the MMA world, Lewis seems well aware that wherever his career takes him, he’s on a crash-course to face Ngannou eventually.
NO REPERCUSSIONS YET
Apparently, the punch that Kevin Lee threw at Michael Chiesa during Friday’s Summer Kickoff press conference hasn’t resulted in so much as a slap on the wrist from UFC officials.
Lee landed a crisp right hand as Chiesa charged across the American Airlines Center stage, and similar situations in the past have yielded major fines.
As of Saturday night, though, Lee said he’s so far gotten off scot-free.
“I ain’t heard nothing yet,” Lee said backstage at UFC 211. “I’m expecting it when I get back to Vegas. If it was in Vegas they probably would have given me a harder time for it, but it really wasn’t my fault. He ran up on me, he should have had his hands up.”
In Las Vegas, the Nevada State Athletic Commission — which generally functions as MMA’s de facto governing body — has stringent rules that oversee everything to do with fight promotion.
When Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz threw water bottles and a can of Monster Energy Drink at one another prior to their UFC 202 rematch, the NSAC handed out huge fines to both fighters.
That’s unlikely to happen in Texas, though, where the commission isn’t nearly as powerful and has been the source of considerable controversy over the years.
So instead of digging into his savings and paying a fine, Lee managed to land a nice punch, generate some headlines and get a clip of himself on sports highlight shows all around the world.
The only cost appears to have been a $3,000 pair of sunglasses that Lee broke in the scuffle.
“I don’t give a f--- about it,” Lee said. “People think I’m putting on something, but this is just the way I am. I talk s---, I get in fights.”
AROUND THE OCTAGON
Prior to this weekend, the last time the UFC was in Dallas was back in March of 2015. Expect a return visit soon, as this week’s events have been greeted by massive crowds everywhere the UFC went. Dallas has a legitimate claim to being the best market for the UFC outside of Las Vegas ... Interestingly, the Monster Energy cans that are put on stage during UFC press conferences are no longer full. The cans are still placed on stage next to fighters, but after the nonsense with McGregor and Diaz last summer, they are now empty ... Sometimes, a fighter just sneaks up on you. After James Vick’s TKO win over Marco Polo Reyes on Saturday night, the Texan has now won seven of his eight fights in the UFC. Vick called for a top-10 opponent in the octagon after Saturday’s win, and the guy has certainly earned that opportunity.