A self-described “professor of the go-getter mentality,” Chi Lewis-Parry doesn’t just talk the talk. Our FaceTime interview took place after he’d had a grueling day of training, and a cardio session followed immediately afterward. All in a day’s work.
My first encounter with the 6’9″ heavyweight was at Glory 33 New Jersey, in which he defeated his opponent by TKO in the second round. Chi’s imposing physique combined with his swaggering self-assurance makes him an enormous—and entertaining—presence. I mentioned to him that his brash post-fight interview that night had made me laugh. “People tend to like my antics and my talking,” he notes. “I talk from the cuff.” This is one of the reasons he prefers to fight in the states rather than back home in the UK, where he hasn’t fought since 2014. He finds that his forthright personality and playful boasting makes him a better fit in the US.
Chi was a professional basketball player and a bouncer before he entered the combat sports scene. He worked at a club on a university campus with his good friend, a mixed martial artist in the early days of UFC. Seeing Chi’s potential as more than just a big guy who wanted to brawl, he offered to start training Chi before work. These initial training sessions involved putting down mats in a dance studio that had a large mirror and a decent amount of floor space–a makeshift gym that worked well enough. As his coach helped hone his natural ability, Chi was inspired to take fighting in a career direction. That was in 2006—ten years later, he’s now seeking a world title shot with Glory’s heavyweight champion, Rico Verhoeven.
Like all athletes, Chi’s exceptional style and precision didn’t develop overnight. He laughingly recounts the story of his K1 amateur debut back in 2011: “There was no game plan. It was literally me swinging for the fences. No technique, nothing, it was just two big dudes throwing.” The wild, uncalculated swinging resulted in a compound fracture in his hand during the first round. Despite the grisly injury, Chi wound up winning the fight by decision: an experience that taught him more about his fortitude than a fast, dramatic knockout would have. His 2015 Glory debut in Dubai went much differently, as he made history with a 25-second knockout in the first round. This impressive display announced his arrival as a formidable heavyweight; since then, all of his finishes in Glory have been by stoppage.
I was curious as to whether Chi’s experience in basketball gave him any sort of competitive edge in fighting. “Footwork!” was his response. “I’m not like a slow, sort of clumpy heavyweight. I like to be light and limber. I think that’s what separates me from the rest of the division.” Along with his quick feet, Chi boasts a formidable level of power of which his opponents have learned to be wary. “I know if I hit anyone in the world with my right hand, I could put them out. It gives me a confidence, that all I have to do is wait for that shot.”
Success as a fighter goes beyond physical prowess and endurance; there is a mental component as well, and a strong mind is something that needs to be trained just as much as a strong body. I asked Chi how he felt stepping into his very first fight so many years ago. He responded with typical good humor: “I think I was just overwhelmed with different expectations. I didn’t really know how I was going to feel. I just knew that I was bigger, I was better looking, and in better shape than the other guy.” Well, no argument there.
As for his mindset now, Chi doesn’t struggle with anxiety before getting in the ring. Any nerves or doubt vanish once he sees his opponent in the flesh. He knows how hard he works and nothing can shake the confidence that comes from relentless training. Admitting that I still get some pre-fight jitters, I asked if Chi had any advice for how to best prepare for competition. He offered some wisdom for all up-and-coming amateur fighters:
There’s nothing mediocre about Chi Lewis-Parry, who is living proof that a rock-solid work ethic is fundamental to achieving greatness; the swagger, however, comes separately.