Richie Lewis knew he had the pedigree to be a force in mixed martial arts but that reputation comes as a blessing and a curse.
The New Jersey native was a professional wrestler and attended Iowa Central Community College, a college that produced future MMA champs like Jon Jones, Colby Covington, and Cain Velasquez. From there, Lewis attended Rutgers University and competed in wrestling at the Division I level but it was all done with a very specific purpose in mind.
“Since 10 and 11 were my ages, I used to watch UFC matches with my father,” Lewis explained to MMA Fighting. My dad is a hardworking blue-collar carpenter and hard worker. His whole motto was “I get up every morning at 5 so that you can do something new .’
“He didn’t let me have a job growing up just so I could focus on athletics. I wasn’t that good at school, I just didn’t like it but he said it’s OK not to be good at school, I just want you to follow your dreams and be a fighter, be an Olympic wrestler, that was the direction I was taking.”
As much as he loved fighting, Lewis says the ultimate inspiration came in the middle of high school when he saw someone from his hometown reach the pinnacle of the sport and he was immediately hooked.
” “As soon I saw Frankie Edgar win his belt, I felt like this was something I could do,” Lewis stated. He was also from .”
While he always knew he wanted to get involved with fighting, Lewis attended college after his mother urged him to continue his higher education. Although Lewis admitted that he attended Iowa Central, then Rutgers in order to please his mother’s wishes, he learned much from these two highly regarded wrestling programs.
Despite this, Lewis maintained a focus on long-term fighting which led to some rollercoaster rides in his career as a wrestler.
“I was always a foot in the door, a foot out of the door in wrestling,” Lewis said. “I can say that’s been an issue with my inconsistency you can see on my record. I won a world championship but I didn’t win an NCAA title in the same year, within three months. My destiny was to become a fighter .”
Once he fully committed to MMA, Lewis started working with coaches like John Danaher in New York before eventually finding his way to Florida where he’s been training with the team at Sanford MMA, which boasts an impressive roster of fighters such as Gilbert Burns, Michael Chandler and Robbie Lawler.
He’s gone 2-0 in his career thus far with both of his fights taking place in Titan FC but he’s also been out of action for the past nine months due to the difficulties he’s had finding opponents.
Lewis claims that he looked for possible matchups through his promotion and with the help of friends. He said that he had scouted a lot of fighters to get one willing opponent.
“We’ve talked to over 300 guys just my team personally and I’m sure Titan has talked to 50 or 60 guys just to get me one fight,” Lewis revealed. “It looks from here we have some things worked out after this last one fell through.”
On Friday, Lewis returns for a fight against that one opponent — Kelvin Bowen — who accepted the challenge but the 27-year-old wrestler turned fighter believes this is ultimately just the next step to his final destination.
“I think I’m progressing faster than anyone in the world,” Lewis said. “I think if you watch my first fight, you see the flaws that I had. My second fight shows fewer flaws. If you see this fight, you’re going to see a performance. Now, I feel like I am becoming a better fighter. I will continue to improve my skills as a fighter.
“Not to say I’m putting a clock on anything but I’ll be in the UFC by next year. I have a 12 to 18 month plan. Over the next 12 and 18 month, I will be as active as I can. Hopefully I will get signed up for the UFC .”