Derrick Lewis punched Curtis Blaydes stiff with one uppercut in the main event of Saturday's UFC Vegas 19, and then hit him again, and yet again, before referee Herb Dean intervened. Fans were puzzled when next Lewis shouted, "That’s not my fault, that’s Herb Dean’s fault."
At the post-fight press conference, Lewis explained what was going on.
“Because his corner, his coaches was talking about, ‘That was bulls***.’ I was saying that’s not my fault, that’s Herb Dean’s fault,” explained Lewis. “I’m going to keep fighting until the referee pulls you off. That’s with anyone. Same thing could happen to me. I’m going to just keep fighting until the referee says stop.”
“I can’t just turn the switch off just like that. I know some fighters could do that, but I can’t do that. I’ve got to wait until the referee pulls you off them, cause you never know what happens. Anything can happen. He could turn into ‘Undertaker’ and sit straight up and eat all those shots. You never know. You’ve got to keep going until the referee says chill out.”
Lewis is correct and his critics are not. He signs a contract to fight under the Unified Rules of mixed martial arts. Under those rules, the referee, not the fighter, stops the fight. If fighters could declare themselves winner and stop, it would, truly, be a sport where everyone wins. But it's not.
Further, countless times fighters have gone out and woken up when they hit the canvas. Asking a fighter to stop fighting because he understands in literally a split second, under attack, with the world watching, that his opponent will not get up, is not reasonable or even rational.
Some fighters possess that ability, and it's amazing when they deliver a walk-off KO, but it's not their job. As Lewis noted correctly, that's the referee's job.
Lewis is now tied with Vitor Belfort for the most KOs in UFC history. Belfort's UFC career spanned 21 years. In contrast, Lewis has been fighting in the UFC for less than seven years. Saturday's KO generated the collective HOLY F@$%ING $#!@ reaction that lies at the very heart of the sport. But at the post-fight press conference, Lewis was sober, even somber, in his self-assessment.
“I couldn’t wake up in there really,” he said. “Like the whole time in the back, the walk to the Octagon, the first and second round, my body couldn’t just wake up. I don’t know why. I just didn’t have it today, the energy that I needed to have. I wanted to be more explosive in the first but I couldn’t just pull the trigger.
“But all I was waiting on was just for him to shoot. I didn’t care about anything else. I was just waiting on him to shoot. Throw the uppercut or knee. We knew it was coming.”
“At the end of the first round I’m like, ‘He’s messing up.’ That’s what I was saying in my head. His coach was trying to pump his head up - ‘Good, you’re doing good’ - and I’m like all right, keep playing that game. That’s what I was saying to myself.
“Then the second round came and I figured he was going to come out and stand up a little bit, then he was going to try to shoot. I just had to be patient.”
“That’s what we’ve been drilling all month. Really 12 weeks, really, trying to get prepared for this guy.”