Ahead of his UFC Vegas 19 headliner this weekend at the UFC Apex facility, #2 ranked heavyweight contender, Curtis Blaydes has questioned opponent, Derrick Lewis’ commitment to training — as well as posing the inquiry if he’s got as much respect for mixed martial arts as him.
Blaydes, who makes his second trip to the Apex facility in Nevada, has won his last four consecutively — most recently knocking back recent UFC Vegas 18 main event feature, Alexander Volkov last June in a wrestling clinic where he scored fourteen successful shots over the five-round affair.
Poised to challenge for Octagon gold in the not too distant future with a victory, although accepting that his chance will come after division newcomer, former two-time light heavyweight best, Jon Jones challenges — Blaydes has recovered with aplomb since his second career loss to UFC 260 title chaser, Francis Ngannou back in November of 2018.
Rescheduled to draw one-time title challenger, Lewis this weekend — the duo were initially slated to take main event status at UFC Vegas 15 in November until Blaydes was forced to withdraw from the matchup during fight week after he provided a positive COVID-19 test result. Lewis was ultimately removed from proceedings entirely, with former light heavyweight title challenger, Anthony Smith submitting Devin Clark in a promoted headlining bout.
Speaking with ESPN MMA reporter, Ariel Helwani prior to this weekend’s outing, Blaydes, claimed that he doesn’t view Lewis’ persona on the same level as former interim welterweight champion, Colby Covington, however, he made it clear that he doesn’t believe the New Orleans native trains or respects the fight game on a similar level to him.
“He’s (Derrick Lewis) — I don’t have any reason to call him a bad guy,” Blaydes said. “I haven’t seen anything that would point to that, but I do think his humour is a little like low-hanging fruit. Like, ‘I’m tryna be the big guy’ and make the weak, easy jokes like, ‘my balls was hot’ and stuff like that. I wouldn’t do that, that’s not my type of personality, but I’m not hating on him — that’s one of his shticks, it’s not hurting nobody.“
“He’s not Colby Covington so I have no problem with him,” Blaydes explained. “I just — I don’t think he puts in the work. And I don’t think he respects the game the way I do, ’cause I’ve seen in a couple of interviews — he works out once or twice a week. I don’t know if that was because he had a back injury or if that’s just like a preference thing, but — I just don’t think he’s putting in the work to be great, that a lot of other guys are putting in to be great.“
Blaydes, who plys his trade at altitude at Elevation Fight Team in Denver, Colorado — shares the mats with former interim lightweight champion, Justin Gaethje and current undisputed welterweight best, Kamaru Usman to name a few — and questioned if Lewis puts in the same amount of work like those guys.
“I’m putting in that work and I see a lot of guys at Elevation (Fight Team) — I see the type of work that’s needed to be great,” Bladyes said. “I watch (Justin) Gaethje, I watch (Kamaru) Usman, I watch Neil Magny like — I don’t think he’s working like that. I’m working like that, I don’t think he’s working like that.“
Prior to his win over former Bellator and M-1 Global heavyweight champion, Volkov, Juco national champion, Blaydes has stopped former champion, Junior dos Santos and common-foe, Shamil Abdurakhimov, after a unanimous judging win over Justin Willis.
Scoring a record-breaking knockout win in his last outing at UFC Vegas 6 in August — Lewis became the most prolific knockout-finisher in the history of the promotion’s heavyweight ranks, sealing his astonishing eleventh stoppage win with strikes via his triumph over Aleksei Oleinik.