From 2006 to 2009 Derrick Lewis was incarcerated for aggravated assault. On November 3rd, 2018 Derrick Lewis fought all-time great Daniel Cormier in the main event at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Derrick Lewis lost by submission to DC, but he still won.
I often write about sports’ function as a facilitator for organic and human stories. Derrick Lewis’ story is as natural and remarkable as one can get. From being a young boy powerless to stop an abusive stepfather from assaulting his mother to a beloved figure in the sport of MMA, “The Black Beast” has come a long way.
This is Just a job
Derrick Lewis’ principle narrative heading into his UFC heavyweight championship fight with Cormier was that he didn’t care for the belt. The only thing that mattered to him was “taking care of his family”. As earnest as they come, it was easy to believe him. For the second oldest of seven siblings in a violent household.
Making sure his children have a different platform from which to begin their ascent into adulthood is paramount. To Derrick Lewis mixed martial arts is a job, but at the post-fight press conference, it was impossible for the soft-spoken knockout artist to camouflage his disappointment.
“I don’t understand why y’all asking me questions after I lost” were the first words out of his mouth. I don’t have a window into the man’s mind, but it seems clear that despite the rhetoric, becoming champion meant something to him. Beyond the assertions that he isn’t a mixed martial artist and that this is just a job to him, a storybook ending was in reach. Maybe this could be like the movies.
It wasn’t to be. DC did DC and wrestled his way to a comfortable second-round rear-naked choke. Lewis had no answer for the former Olympian’s onslaught of single legs, and despite a history of being able to stand up pretty much at will, he succumbed to the technical excellence of the incumbent champion. Derrick’s Lewis story of troubled youth to UFC fighter hasn’t found its credits rolling crescendo, at least for now. That’s okay though.
This is real life
This is real life. The Derrick Lewis types don’t always win the big one, but in the end how much does that matter? After veering from the straight narrow, Lewis used fighting to find his way back. Now he has a family who he is able to support by competing in MMA. In the process, he has found his way into the hearts of the fanbase with an endearing personality.
According to Lewis’ head coach, Lewis is a true introvert. The hard-hitting behemoth is certainly reserved, speaking softly during interviews. Simmering under his subdued manner though is a wicked sense of humour. This that became clear to the mainstream in his now-famous post-fight interview at UFC 229.
The Khabib/McGregor card was a mixed bag of a night, but Derrick Lewis showcased a vertical slice of who he is as a person. Lose soundly for fourteen and a half minutes, get the knockout out right before the buzzer, then takes his shorts off because his “balls were hot”. The quintessential Derrick Lewis experience in a 20-minute window. It’s hard to not like the man, and it’s damn near impossible to not respect him.
Derrick Lewis is winning at life
The loss to DC is immaterial. Despite a shy disposition, Lewis has people invested in him as a person. He’s got people rooting for him to do well.
He dragged himself from the gutter and made something of himself, a belt wouldn’t change that. We already have our happy ending. And of course, to top it all off, Derrick has secured a lucrative sponsorship deal with his beloved Popeye’s chicken.
Naturally, the story doesn’t end here. Lewis could very well find himself back in title contention with a few more right hands, and we’ll write our stories all over again. Even if that doesn’t happen Derrick Lewis has won. Anything else is just a bonus.
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