For most fighters, the true test of potential isn’t if they can get a finish or win multiple fights in a row, it’s the response to adversity. It’s getting knocked down and getting back up, losing the first round and having to win the last two or get a finish and for the first time in his career, Dominick Reyes found himself finding out if he could pass his biggest test when he faced Volkan Ozedemir at UFC London in March winning by split decision. It was a test Reyes had been waiting for and he is happy with how he handled the adversity.
“I’m very happy with the way I responded. I was faced with some adversity and I dug deep and I found that power inside to keep going.”
What led to the adversity according to “The Devastator” Reyes was that believes he was thinking just a tad too much and he should’ve been offensive.
“I tried some new things out, you know got away from myself a little bit…I was thinking in the fight and instead of just fighting, I was thinking too much and instead of reacting and being myself and not really worrying about what he was bringing to the table as much. He’s a powerful striker and I was really worried about it. Once I took a few then I knew he wouldn’t knock me out.”
One of the few shots Reyes took broke his nose and fractured his cheek bone. That proved to be a challenge Reyes had to overcome in the fight.
“It wasn’t easy, he broke my nose in the first round he also fractured my cheek bone. It was just tough to breathe, I had blood trickling down the back of my throat, every time I took a breath it felt like I was taking a drink of water almost. It was definitely a challenge, like I said it made me go into that zone where nothing matters except for what you’re facing in front of you and as long as I’m standing, I’m ok.”
Once he realized he was ok, Reyes said the pain just made him mad.
“It just left me mad and made me want to go harder. Instead of “oh no” I was like “F this.””
All true champions have faced adversity in their careers, Reyes is just happy that it happened before he stepped into the cage for a championship fight.
“I rather face those adversities before I get to the championship and earn my valor.”…“I feel I leveled up.”
Now that he has a victory over a former title contender and top five ranked opponent, Reyes truly believes he is a contender and the one fighter no one in his division should want to face.
“Dominick Reyes is a bad motherfucker right now, Dominick Reyes is a guy you don’t want to face.”
However, as great as the win against Ozedemir was for his career, it was still a split decision. With title aspirations, Reyes needed a finish to get the attention of the UFC brass and light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, so he knows he has more work to do.
“No I didn’t, I knew I had more work to do, I knew that wasn’t enough to appease the powers that be. It’s about performances, this is the entertainment business, we’re here to entertain. I know my fight wasn’t boring but it wasn’t super exciting, I didn’t knock him out, I didn’t finish him. The goal is to finish the fight, the goal is to inflict as much damage as possible and I didn’t reach my goal, I didn’t finish. The whole point of the fight is to finish and I didn’t do it. Going forward, definitely going to finish at all times.”
Now that he is recovered from the broken nose and cheek bone, Reyes is focused on his next fight which is against former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman in the main event of UFC Boston on October 18. Reyes was waiting to see if he was getting a title fight but decided that the name recognition and the main event was worth fighting for despite Weidman making his light heavyweight debut off of a couple of losses.
“All the waiting was to see what would happened. With Jones and Thiago and see how it would all played out. I put myself in a nice position, I’m reached the top five, so now I’m just looking ahead. I’m looking to get to a title, ahead of me are Cormier, Smith and Thiago and all three are out right now. The only logical option would’ve been me (for title). But I got wind of them being interested in doing Cormier vs. Jones three, so Weidman came about and it was hey, you want Weidman? It’s name recognition, it’s a number one contender fight, it’s everything you want, it’s a main event.”
“Cause after the fight my goal was a main event. I need a main event to fight for a title. I need to get five rounds before I’m in a championship fight. That’s one of the things I’m looking to do was to get a main event, it was the reality, a realistic goal for me, just fighting for a title without a main event is kinda crazy. So, I got that, I got the main event, I got Weidman, he’s a legend, a former champion, it’s a great matchup and I’m super excited about it.”
Most people thought Reyes’ next step would be fellow top contender Corey Anderson. Despite the fight being offered it didn’t end up working out but it seems there is a little bit of tension left.
“They did and I said yes but then it fell through somehow. I’ve never not accepted a fight in my career so I don’t know what he’s talking about. I know he doesn’t accept fights, that’s a fact. I don’t know what he’s talking about, I know he doesn’t accept fights, I know that’s a fact. So, I don’t know what he’s trying to do, he’s trying to be relevant. But he’s fighting Johnny Walker so that’s his place, he needs to focus on what he needs to do not what everybody else needs to do.”
But his focus isn’t on Anderson, it’s on Weidman and despite Weidman coming off of multiple losses, Reyes sees the opportunity as a win win for both fighters.
“I feel I have more to lose fighting Weidman, it’s a riskier fight because he’s not ranked at light heavyweight, we don’t know what’s up with him at light heavyweight, that’s a middleweight ranking. So I feel I have more lose fighting him and he has more to gain. But then I get what he wants and he gets what he wants. The winner gets what he wants. I think it’s a win win for both fighters, both fighters benefit greatly from this.”
In terms of the matchup, Reyes doesn’t see any advantages for Weidman over him despite believing Weidman will be the most intelligent opponent he has faced.
“I love the matchup. He’s long, he’s deceptively long. At the end of the day he’s a middleweight and he’s moving up to light heavyweight. I’ve been fighting here my whole life, I’m on the bigger side of light heavyweight too, just cause he’s a bigger middleweight doesn’t mean he’s going to be a big light heavyweight, now he’s just going to be a small light heavyweight. I like that, I like my athleticism versus him, all day, I’ll take it all day. He has great coaches, he really does. He has really good coaches who know how to coach him up. Weidman is the smartest guy I’m going to fight to date. I think he’s the most intelligent guy in terms of fight IQ. His system is really good but he hasn’t fought me yet.”
The fight between the two high level athletes has started already…on Twitter. As Reyes explains, it was fun because it was organic but it started because he was upset about not getting a title shot.
“It happened organically so it was even more fun cause it was real. I was frustrated about them…by the whole thing. I was just frustrated that I wasn’t going to get the title shot. Cause I didn’t know what was happening with the situation. So I was like alright, I was expressing the mob wants to see blood. You want me to take someone else’s head, I’ll do it, more than happy. If that’s what you want, I’m going to do it, now I’m pissed, I’m two fights away from everything I ever wanted. So, alright you’re going to make me fight another one, now I’m pissed.”
“I was upset a little bit and I tweeted I’ll take his head and obviously no one ever wants to hear someone’s going to take their head. He got upset and tried to say…I don’t even know what he was trying to say about my last fight. Dude I won, you lost your last five. He doesn’t want to play the trash talk game with me, he’s not a trash talker.”
For the fight in the octagon, Reyes believes his keys to victory are very simple and quite frankly that he is a better and younger version of Weidman.
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“Keys are defending the takedown, making him pay, making him work for it and tiring him out. He’s 35 now, I’m 29. I’m a better version of him in his prime.”
Pundits and fans alike are excited about the Reyes vs. Weidman fight not only because of Weidman’s move up to light heavyweight for the first time but also because it provides an opportunity to truly see how good Reyes is. Because of the dominant performances, no one has seen Reyes in the cage for a significant amount of time and are curious if he is truly as good as he seems to be. Specifically, if he can defend takedowns and work his way back to his feet. Ozedemir’s main success came when he took Reyes down, and Weidman is known as a wrestler so the matchup provides intrigue to the fight. But Reyes doesn’t see an issue and he expects to add another finish to his resume.
“People don’t think I have wrestling all of a sudden because Volkan took me down. I’m the first guy in the UFC that made Volkan shoot like that. It was great timing, it was a good strategy, he took me down because that was the last thing that I was expecting him to do. I’m expecting Weidman to shoot so let’s see if he can take me down, we’ll see.”
“I’m going to finish him.”
It’s been a little over two years since Reyes made his debut in the UFC and his rise has been astronomical. From prelim fighter to main event is a remarkable achievement in its self but to do it in two years is a rare occurrence. This fact isn’t lost on Reyes by any means.
“It’s crazy man, it’s such a whirlwind right now. To be mentioned in all of these publications, and be on ESPN on the front page, headlining, it’s literally a dream come true. I was an amateur fighter a couple years ago fighting for the University of MMA and I was dream about those things. I used to be on those sites every day, reading the latest news and saying I’m going to be on those sites, I know it.”
“I do reflect on it from time to time. Every once in a while, it’ll feel like a reality check, like wow, the last six years have gone like that. I’ve been in the UFC two years and I still remember my debut, every day of the entire fight week. I remember all of it, it’s gone so fast, I feel so blessed. My rise has been astronomical, in terms of time and everything, I’m in the upper echelon of the sport right now. It’s fun, I’m happy. I’ve worked for this all the work I’ve done. I’m looking forward, it’s been a heck of a ride, I’m blessed and grateful. Now I really feel like I’m in the big leagues.”
“This is exactly who I am, I’ve worked to be this person.”
Reyes fights Chris Weidman on October 18 at UFC Boston in the main event which will air on ESPN2.