For nearly three decades now, the UFC has been largely considered the pinnacle of mixed martial arts.
Many young fighters enter the sport with dreams of competing in the Nevada-based promotion, while veterans hope that impressive performances in minor promotions will, one day, catapult them into the limelight.
In this sense, and in many others, Chi Lewis-Perry is very different.
“Chopper” (7-0-2), who fights Mahmoud Hassan at UAE Warriors 2 this Friday, July 5, recently spoke with John Hyon Ko of The Body Lock, and the 6-foot-9 heavyweight spoke candidly about how fighting for major titles was no longer the motivation for his career; instead, he just wants to have fun.
“I don’t need to be the pound-for-pound greatest, I don’t care about that, but I’ll fight anybody…kind of like how Mark Hunt is. I’ve kind of reached the point where I just want to have fun, so I’m enjoying it. A lot of guys map their career because they want to get to the titles… I’m not interested in that, just give me names and let me have fun.”
Indeed, Lewis-Parry contends that throughout his career, there has been no shortage of offers from major promotions and while he has competed in MMA competition for ONE and in GLORY kickboxing, offers from promotions such as the UFC and Bellator have not been entertained by ‘Chopper’.
“There’s a lot of politics that surrounds my career and it’s not that straightforward… I’ve had plenty of offers that I’ve just not been able to accept, so until I’m completely in the clear, I can’t really entertain those ideas. All I can do right now is just focus on staying active and staying relevant; as long as I stay relevant, then the conversation is always there but it’s different for me now. I’ve reached a point in my career where I just want to enjoy it.”
Should Lewis-Parry ever make his way to the UFC, he will join a fairly small group of fighters who have competed in both GLORY and the UFC, including Mirko Cro Cop, ‘Bigfoot’ Silva, Gokhan Saki, Karl Roberson and most recently, and successfully, newly-crowned interim middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya.
“Chopper,” who was 4-1 in his stint in GLORY, was impressed by Adesanya’s meteoric rise to the top of the UFC’s middleweight division, but also believed that “The Last Stylebender’s” success shows the formula needed for MMA success.
“I think it just goes to show that if you’re an elite-level striker and you have good takedown defense, you don’t have to have incredible takedown defense, but good enough that you can keep the fight standing long enough to light them up, then you can go as far as you want to go and look, he’s a champ now.
“You can see somebody of his skill level deserves to be a champion… And he got to fight Anderson Silva; that is something I would love to I’d say because these are the legends, these guys were there when you were learning how to throw a right straight so that in itself to me is an accomplishment. I wish I could say back in the day I got to fight against Ernesto Hoost.”
For me, these are the things that define you; who did you get to compete against. A bit of plastic, a bit of metal is great, but it’s not as important as how you feel in terms of accomplishment.”
Mixed experiences in minor promotions
Lewis-Parry began his career in regional competition across the UK and after reaching 5-0, made his debut in ONE, facing Alain Ngalani. This bout ended in a no contest, due to an accidental knee to the groin by the Englishman, and the pair would rematch at ONE FC 18. This time, Lewis-Parry was dominant, finishing the bout via ground-and-pound in the first round.
Following this, Lewis-Parry made his move to GLORY, but returned to MMA competition last year. In the four bouts since his return, ‘Chopper’ has continued his undefeated streak, but is 1-0-2 (1), drawing twice to Lukasz Parobiec and controversially ending another bout via no contest, due to illegal elbow strikes.
Lewis-Parry suggested he wasn’t overly pleased with his victory, a second-round TKO of Ibrahim El Sawi, but that the experience of fighting in Abu Dhabi was one he thoroughly enjoyed.
“The whole experience was probably the best experience I’ve had with any promotion because I got to go out there with friends. Obviously, Oli Thompson who main-evented the card is a good friend of mine and we trained together for that fight, so the whole experience was fun
The performance was what it was. I wasn’t particularly motivated for the guy, but I was just motivated to perform and win because it’s been a while and it was my first fight back since the injury last year. I was motivated it to get the W and as soon as I saw the opportunity take him out, I took him out.”
In contrast, Lewis-Parry was particularly annoyed with the two draws on his record, which came against former KSW competitor, Lukasz Parobiec. ‘Chopper’ took particular issue with what he considered to be repeated attempts to injure him from Parobiec in their first bout and believed this affected his mindset for the rematch.
“I didn’t like the opponent because of how the first one went, and I think I took things a little bit personal. When I go to fight, I don’t go to injure somebody because I understand the realities that unless you’re Conor McGregor or DC, guys who are making legit money, other people have got to work still. So I would never go intentionally try to put somebody out of a job so to speak, and I felt like my opponent intended to do that, and once he saw that I was injured he kept going for that injury; that’s like a career-ending injury.”
The rematch was a stop-start affair, with multiple low blows and eye pokes from both fighters, and in the third round, Lewis-Parry was, once again, deducted a point that resulted in the bout being scored a draw; it was a bitter feeling of déjà vu for Lewis-Parry, who was equally disappointed that he was even in the bout in the first place.
“I took him personal and I didn’t have to take that fight, but I just wanted to get him back and that was the wrong attitude to have. I just lacked motivation and you could see I didn’t really want to be there. The points thing was ridiculous, that’s both fights they’ve taken a point from me and it ended in a draw, so technically you give me back those points, I win both fights. I was disappointed but more disappointed in the fact that I even was there.”
Lewis-Parry was initially slated to face Ben Adwubi (4-1) for the vacant UAE Warriors heavyweight title. However, following an injury to Adwubi, Mahmoud Hassan (1-5), who was the backup fighter for Lewis-Parry’s last bout in the UAE, has stepped in. Despite this change, ‘Chopper’ remains confident in his ability to get the job done; it is still business as usual for the Englishman.
“Mahmoud Hassan is now the opponent; he’s an Egyptian, he’s a teammate of the guy I fought in January, so I guess they’re going to try and get one back, which they’ve got no chance. However, he’s stepping in and he’s giving me a fight so I can do nothing but admire and respect him for that.”
This bout will be Lewis-Parry’s first title fight in his seven-year professional career, after he was expected to face reigning ONE heavyweight champion Brandon Vera in 2015 but was replaced by Canada’s Paul Cheng.
While he has previously struggled with finding motivation, a new source of competition has proven to be exactly what the doctor ordered and has pushed Lewis-Parry further than any of his previous opportunities in other promotions have.
“I thrive on competition and I like the competition to be high because then I challenge myself; that’s where the motivation is, I think as a human being. The main goal of life is to overcome challenges; accept them, face them, run from them or challenge them and I like the challenge because it lets me know who I am and tells me a lot about my character.”
Training with champions and mind coaches
Lewis-Parry first made headlines as Daniel Cormier’s giant training partner, who, alongside most of the American Kickboxing Academy team, became embroiled in a war of words with Jon Jones. Indeed, Lewis-Parry’s feud with Jones has gone further than many other AKA fighters, as he confronted him recently at BodyPower Expo in Birmingham, UK last month.
‘Chopper’ clearly looks back on his time at AKA with great fondness and he credits the San Jose-based gym as a major reason for his success and development as a fighter.
“I’ve never been somebody who’s really lacked confidence… But going there and competing with those guys on a daily basis just made my confidence even better, because you realize you can chop it up with guys who are Olympians, elite strikers, world champions coming from where I come from. I pride myself on my striking and my mental toughness, so going there only enhanced that.”
While Lewis-Parry will be returning to San Jose for Daniel Cormier’s camp prior to his rematch with Stipe Miocic at UFC 241, in the build-up to his UAE Warriors bout, he primarily trained in England, at gyms including Kicks Martial Arts, 1G MMA and Four Corners Gym. These were all gyms he felt matched his passion to improve, while Lewis-Parry is content training and preparing himself, he also conceded that there is no substitute for a passionate and positive gym.
“I’m a very solitary human being…I don’t need to have anybody around me, I could rock up to a fight on my own and I could get myself ready and I could go out there and compete, and I pride myself on that, but it’s very important to have a solid team, someone who shares the same passion and the same dream.
I’ve been working with Shane Kent, who is my striking coach. We teamed up last year and he’s got a very similar K-1 mind to me. I trained a lot with jiu-jitsu coach Tolly Plested, and then when I came away from the coast I trained with Jay Butler – both very different jiu-jitsu styles but very complementary of my style as a fighter.”
Lewis-Parry has also worked with mind-coach and psychotherapist Vinny Shoreman, who has previously worked with MMA fighters including Cody Garbrandt and Brendan Loughnane, Muay Thai kickboxer Liam Harrison and IBF featherweight champion, Josh Warrington. He is hugely complimentary about the work Shoreman has done, and while their relationship is only in its infancy, it is clear Lewis-Parry holds Shoreman in high regard.
“Vinnie probably doesn’t seem it at first glance, but he’s a very spiritual person and he’s somebody who’s in great connection with himself; he understands himself so he can help you understand yourself and that’s what I think so important, there’s so much strength in that.
The first time I spoke to him, I reached out and he responded immediately, and the very brief conversation I had with him reminded me of things that I believed about myself, but as you get older and you get more responsibility, you inherit these very negative experiences through experience and you hold on to them. He kind of helped me rinse some of that away, just in a brief conversation.
I actually went up to see him a couple of weeks ago, it was the first time I ever met Vinny and he introduced me to this group of guys that all decided ‘we’re going to help you and we don’t want anything from you.’ That was just like wow like I still have some faith in humanity.”