Derrick Lewis knows what he wants, and that’s a matchup with a fellow knockout artist at the UFC’s premiere event of 2016.
Shortly after “The Black Beast” recorded a first-round knockout of former title challenger Gabriel Gonzaga in the UFC Fight Night Zagreb co-main event on Sunday -- his sixth knockout finish in the Octagon -- he set his sights on Roy Nelson, who has finished seven of his eight promotional triumphs by knockout or technical knockout.
“I feel hungry after that victory. I feel really good. I appreciate my opponent and what he did in the fight. I’m hoping that I get to fight Roy Nelson in July at UFC 200,” he said.
Why Nelson? Well, Lewis understands that MMA is an entertainment business, and a showdown with Nelson is exactly the type of fight that can raise Lewis’ profile.
“It ain’t nothing personal or anything like that. I just feel like he’s going to bring a better fighter out of me. It’s a fan favorite fight,” Lewis said in an interview on Fox Sports 1. “I’m here for the promotion to sell tickets. Hopefully we can renegotiate my contract and I can make $1 million a fight, but we’re not going to talk about that right now.”
Nelson, meanwhile, seemed open to the idea of a future showdown with Lewis:
Roy Nelson (@roynelsonmma) April 10, 2016
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Lewis against Gonzaga. The former Legacy Fighting Championships titleholder was taken down early in the first frame but was able to return to his feet following a grappling exchange with the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. From there, it was all Lewis, as he blasted his foe with a series of heavy punches near the fence before landing a right hand that knocked Gonzaga unconscious.
“Whenever he took my back I was just thinking his hair just felt like a brillo pad,” Lewis quipped of the notoriously hairy Gonzaga. “I’ve got to get this guy off me. So I did what I did.”
It was an difficult week for Lewis, who in his post-fight interview mentioned the death of coach Tony Orozco, who recently passed away following a battle with cancer.
“I’m not really an emotional guy, but it hurts a lot right now for my coach not to be here in person,” Lewis said. “I’m sure he’s watching in Heaven, but it really hurts right now.”
That anguish wasn’t event to prevent Lewis from garnering his fourth victory in five outings. Although Nelson is in Lewis’ immediate crosshairs, the Houston native has his sights set on bigger goals down the road. His win over Gonzaga was simply another step.
“I want to fight again soon and keep this run of victories going,” Lewis said. “Eventually I want to fight for the title and this victory definitely puts me in the top 15.”