Feb
27
2013
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Dwayne “D-Bomb” Lewis

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DWAYNE “D-BOMB” LEWIS talks Fort McMurray, an MMA comeback, the rise of the Lewis Army, and the personal struggle to maintain his own“balance of power”

On January 27, 2012, in front of a sold-out crowd at the Mayfield Conference Centre in Edmonton,  as well as a home viewing audience on HD Net estimated at over one million, Dwayne “D-Bomb” Lewis’ leg became a misshapen, purple monstrosity. Lewis could barely even stand as the ring announcer at “Maximum Fighting Championship 32” announced that his opponent, UFC veteran Wilson Gouveia, was the winner of their mixed martial arts bout by TKO, after relentlessly chopping Lewis down with kicks to the leg and punches to the head.

 Lewis would return home to Fort McMurray with not just a busted up leg, but a broken hand, torn ligaments, and most importantly, a wounded spirit. He wouldn’t wait very long to announce his retirement from MMA after a roller coaster five-year career.

“I went back to my room and thought about having to explain to my kids again that Daddy got hurt,” Lewis recalled of the difficult decision.

“At 37- years old, I didn’t see the point in continuing on this path, especially after such a disappointing loss to a guy I should’ve destroyed.”

And just like that, the most celebrated and accomplished MMA career by a Fort McMurray resident was over.

If Sandy Bowman is considered the godfather of local MMA in Wood Buffalo, Dwayne Lewis would be its favourite son.

Lewis had an impressive run as a fighter; once ranked the no. 3 light-heavyweight in Canada and 33rd in the world, by FightMatrix. He had strung together an impressive list of highlight-reel knockouts, at one point accomplishing a seven-fight win streak and holding three spots in MFC’s Top 10 knockouts of 2009 list. But all was not without cost, as his retirement would suggest, but dealing with the daily grind of balancing work, training, and being a loving husband and father, certainly took its toll.

“I was spending a lot of time away from my wife and kids when I was training. I had a great job at Shell as a team leader, but I was using all my vacation time for scheduled fights.”

Lewis grins almost disbelievingly as he describes what his daily routine was like.

“Coming home from work after a 16-hour day, squeezing in an hour with the family and then hitting the club to train was very draining!”

During his weeks on-shift with Shell, Lewis found himself waking up at 3 a.m., arriving home at 6:00 p.m. before leaving to train at Bowman’s MMA around 7:30 p.m., and not getting home to sleep until between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m..

But Lewis’ path in MMA has never been easy. After his first-ever fight on New Year’s Eve in 2006, in which Lewis earned a first-round knockout, he quickly earned a spot on the MFC (Maximum Fighting Championship) roster. But after losing three of four fights, both in MFC and with other promotions, Lewis was told to gain experience elsewhere before he would be considered MFC material again. And one of those losses came at a very difficult time.

“I had a very disappointing loss to Aron Lofton in a fight that I should never have taken, since I did not train,” Lewis says, hesitating before continuing.

“It was three weeks prior to that fight that I had lost my grandfather, a man I considered more of a father figure to me than anyone else. I stepped into the ring with a heavy heart that night and had no motivation to be there. I got knocked out for the first time.”

Injury is also no stranger to Lewis. After earning his way back into the MFC, Lewis worked his way up to a title shot against a man he had lost to during those earlier, tough times. Ryan Jimmo was the light heavyweight champion, and was the only thing between Lewis being just an “everyman” with the crowd behind him, and being a full-fledged champion in MMA.

Lewis earned the shot after winning nine of ten fights, including the impressive seven-fight win-streak. But Jimmo had earned a decision over Lewis after going all three rounds a couple years before. The stage was set; however, a crazy turn of events would doom Lewis’ chances in the rematch.

While training in Milwaukee at the renowned Roufusport MMA club run by Duke Roufus, Lewis suffered a back injury which cut his fight training short and forced him to return to McMurray. He decided to fight Jimmo anyway.

“My back was killing me, but I was hoping adrenaline would act as a pain killer and I’d be able to claim the title.”

It was not to be, however, as injury stopped the fight early. But it wasn’t Lewis’ back that was the concern.

“We both came together at the same time and the two finger knuckles of Ryan’s right hand went into my eye, pushing it in so far that it actually broke down through the orbital floor.”

The resulting facial injury was such a grotesque visual, referred to as a “mouse,” that Lewis made sports highlight reels across North America.

“As I looked up and saw myself on the big screen, I knew right then and there that the fight was going to be stopped.”
One thing that has kept Dwayne Lewis focused and moving forward through all the adversity, through all the attention he’s gotten being a fighter on HD Net, and through the toll that an MMA career has taken on his family life  is the emergence of his extended family, starting with Sandy Bowman and growing with the “Lewis Army” fan base.

“Sandy Bowman is my brother from another mother. I love the guy,” Lewis says proudly. “I credit him and the whole Bowman MMA family for my success…along with the power in my hands.”

In addition to his inner-circle, the amazing fact that such a large contingent of Fort McMurray MMA fans would travel Highway 63 to Edmonton to see him fight, becoming known as the “Lewis Army,” is a fact not lost on Dwayne.

“There were times when the majority of the crowd at MFC shows were there for me!” Lewis beams proudly. “It was noticed by everyone. They did articles on how many people would follow me to Edmonton. I ended up getting a ton of sponsors…and HD Net came up to Fort McMurray to do features on me, twice.”

Without a doubt, Lewis became a marketable star, even selling D-Bomb merchandise, such as t-shirts and Edmonton event tickets right out of Bowman’s MMA in Fort McMurray. Not too shabby for a skinny kid who was born in Labrador, raised in Newfoundland, and by his own admission “got up to no good” before moving to Toronto after graduation, in 1993.

Lewis moved to Fort McMurray in 2000. He became a successful fighter, a husband, a father, and a star. Not to mention being a role model for how to succeed using incredible work ethic and discipline. But as devoted as the “Lewis Army” had been throughout his entire career, the one wish they never saw fulfilled was Lewis stepping into an MMA cage, here at home.

“I really regret not fighting in my hometown, in Fort McMurray,” Lewis sighs. “Sandy started his own promotion, Prestige FC, but I was always under contract to MFC and not available to fight.”

Now, nearly a year after retiring, with a healed body and a clear mind, does Lewis see the potential for a hometown fight under the Prestige FC banner, and more importantly, does he have the necessary will and dedication to come out of retirement?

“I will be 38 years old this May,” Lewis explains. “Does anyone really want to see a 38 year old step into the cage with someone who, chances are, will be 10 years younger…maybe faster…maybe in better condition?” Lewis pauses and smiles.

“I hope Fort McMurray does. I plan on fighting on the next Prestige card in May. And my opponent better have a chin of granite, because I plan on showing everyone in town that I still deserve the nickname ‘D-Bomb!’”

So, rally the troops. The “Lewis Army” is going to take a stand…on the home front.

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BEN McCULLY

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