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It came as something of a surprise to many when it was announced that Daniel Cormier would defend his heavyweight title against Derrick Lewis at UFC 230 in Madison Square Garden early next month in a short notice main event after the UFC apparently thought twice about headlining the event with a women’s flyweight title bout between Valentina Shevchenko and Sijara Eubanks.

Lewis has never been more popular following his stunning KO victory against Alexander Volkov a couple of weeks ago and, of course, the ‘hot ballz’ meme which came with it. ‘The Black Beast’ has now won 9 of 10 at heavyweight, an impressive ledger by anyone’s standards and in Cormier, he will face a fighter who admits that he is not at 100 percent.

“Man, I always wanted to compete, but I was hurt and I kinda set my sights on just waiting for Brock,” Cormier said of his decision to face Lewis to Luke Thomas on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour on MMA Fighting.

“Then the UFC called me and asked me. That’s generally how it goes, but this time they said, ‘Can you fight in a few weeks?’ And I was like, ‘Well, honestly, I’m not ready to fight right now, but I could see where I stand. I could see if there’s any chance that I could get in a fight.’ They said Derrick Lewis. I said, ‘Okay, let me go see if my hand will hold up when I punch something. If it does, then yeah, I’ll go fight.’

“It’s good enough to fight,” Cormier continued. “It’s not 100 percent, I’m going to be honest. My fist is closing but not all the way. It feels like now I have like a badly jammed finger. Like, it feels like my finger’s just jammed really badly right now.

“You ever had like a jammed finger and you just can’t really pop it? It kinda like sticks up a little bit more than the other finger? That’s where my hand is right now, so my pointer finger doesn’t close completely. Like, I can’t make a closed, tight fist, but it just feels like if I could pop it, I would be okay. The problem is I’m just too afraid to pop it. It hurts. Like, I’m not popping it. I’m just kinda hoping that if I’m sparring and I punch someone, that it pops and goes back to normal.

“I’m telling you, I’m going hard though. I’m hitting dudes. I’m punching dudes and trying to get ready to fight. I’m not going to cheat myself and go into this fight with Derrick — I have to be very prepared. The guy is a big, strong, tough guy who’s there to win the fight, so I have to be prepared to do everything in there.”