Bevon Lewis walked into a mixed martial arts gym for the first time eight years ago, but he was not there to train. He showed up to help his father finish a plumbing job.
“My dad is a plumber, and one summer during college break, I was helping him work on a gym,” Lewis told Sherdog.com. “I didn’t know what MMA was called. I thought the sport was called the UFC.”
Lewis has always been an athlete, having competed in football, baseball and wrestling at various stages of his life. He decided to give MMA a try. Lewis could not have comprehended the difficulty or scope of the challenge he had undertaken.
“At first, I didn’t learn to fight,” he said. “I just did the strength and conditioning, and I was so tired I thought I was going to leave on a stretcher.”
Lewis was not discouraged. Instead, he came back to try his hand in some standup classes and then jiu-jitsu, and he fell in love. Lewis grew up in Stone Mountain, Georgia, a small town of 6,000 people right outside of Atlanta. He described his first MMA gym as “a gym with a lot of rough guys that truly enjoyed fighting and was ready to go at any time.” The 27-year-old began his amateur career on the southeast regional circuit. Lewis also competed in a few amateur tournaments, which were held as a one- or two-day competitions.
“I did a few tournaments,” he said, “and sometimes I would be fighting once or twice on a Friday and two or three [times] on Saturday.”
Before Lewis made his professional MMA debut, he competed for and won an International Kickboxing Federation title. Then 23, he had also compiled an impressive 12-2 record in 14 appearances as an amateur mixed martial artist. Lewis turned pro as a welterweight in October 2015, beating his opponent in a one-sided decision. After his first fight at 170 pounds, Lewis decided that his 6-foot-3 frame was much better suited for the middleweight division.
Nicknamed “The Extraordinary Gentleman” by MMA pioneer Pat Miletich, Lewis moved to 185 pounds at an Xtreme Caged Combat event in April 2016 and found immediate success with a third-round technical knockout of Kristopher Gratalo in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. After starting his career 2-0, he made the decision to move to New Mexico to train full time at Jackson-Wink MMA.
Lewis’ next fight put him on the prospect radar, as he took on three-time NCAA All-American wrestler Sonny Yohn on short notice under the Legacy Fighting Alliance banner. Lewis not only won in convincing fashion but did so while outgrappling the former University of Minnesota standout. He draws influence from the great Anderson Silva in terms of his standup approach but has also been mistaken for former Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight titleholder Jon Jones due to the similarity in physique. Lewis considers himself a chameleon in the cage, as he likes to grapple with grapplers and strike with strikers.
The win over Yohn moved Lewis to 3-0 and earned him an opportunity on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. He scored a second-round TKO against Elias Urbina on Aug. 29, and though the performance did not land him a spot on the UFC roster, he received a “developmental deal” with the organization. Lewis describes it as more of a “scholarship,” which allows him to focus on training and his next fight without being stressed by finances.
After competing on the contender series, Lewis returned at LFA 38 in April and claimed a one-sided unanimous decision over Collin Huckbody. He will carry a 5-0 record into his next appearance on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, as he locks horns with undefeated prospect Alton Cunningham on July 10 in Las Vegas. Lewis believes he has an experience advantage, despite the fact that Cunningham also has five pro bouts under his belt. He thinks another decisive win would thrust him into the UFC.
“The first time I thought there was going to be a lot of pressure on the contender series, but there wasn’t,” Lewis said, “so this time, I don’t think there will be too much pressure at all. To me, it is just another part of the journey.”