Once upon a time, two-time UFC light heavyweight title challenger Dominick Reyes was perhaps the greatest certainty in the history of Stony Brook football. He even had NFL ambitions, which he didn’t expect when he first hiked from Southern California to Long Island for college.
« My goal was just to graduate, to be honest, » said Reyes the Post. “It was free education that was the big thing for me. But when I realized I was doing pretty well, the NFL became my ultimate goal. “
It’s been eight years since the league passed Reyes (12-2, nine placements) in the draft, but within two years he’d gone 2-0 in mixed martial arts. And with the NFL Draft 2021, which ends a few hours before the headline of an ESPN-broadcast UFC Fight Night by UFC Apex in Las Vegas against Jiri Prochazka, he completely deviated from football. He says he didn’t even know the draft was this week until asked about it.
This life, of course, focuses on MMA. Reyes spent his entire 2020 battling it out for UFC gold with £ 205. Last February, he fell short in a hotly debated unanimous decision against long-time pound-for-pound staple Jon Jones. When Jones made the long-awaited decision to move up to the heavyweight division and forego the light heavyweight belt, Reyes was booked for a fight against Jan Blachowicz in September to determine the new champion. That fight was a mess for Reyes, which ended on TKO in the second round for the first time in his career. « I didn’t play, » said Reyes. « It’s not about winning and losing, it’s about not performing. » That was the problem for me. «
» I was concerned about the result, « he continued, explaining why he was not meeting his own expectations. “I wanted to win the belt. I didn’t mean to lose. You know if you are fighting, or playing a game, or something you don’t want to lose, you are not going to perform. You’re only out there not to lose. There is nothing worse for an athlete than to play so as not to lose instead of playing to win, to play to do your best, [your] highest level. … I didn’t want to be knocked out. I didn’t mean to make a mistake. I made several mistakes and got knocked out. “
31-year-old Reyes is quick to correct himself for being » knocked down « instead of KO’d, despite swearing he has suffered both defeats in 2020 in the past. Nevertheless, the fight was broken off with a final result and Blachowicz successfully defended his championship once. He’ll get it on the line later this year, but Reyes’s rise to that position begins this weekend against Prochazka (27-3-1, 26 placements).
The 28-year-old from the Czech Republic was with made a huge impression on his UFC debut last year, having appeared almost entirely for Japan-based Rizin FF for the past five years. The powerful Prochazka, whose eccentric personality also manifests itself in the cage, presented himself to the UFC audience in July with a thundering knockout of former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir. He’s won 11 in a row, the last nine by (T) KO.
« I respect the way he approaches the fighting game, » Reyes said of Prochazka, whom he hadn’t met mid-week. “He’s more of a samurai style that takes the fight and really defines it.”
Prochazka could knock on the door of a UFC title challenge with a win in his first fight on US soil. However, Reyes, who complemented the Czech striker’s first UFC win, is confident that he has the resources to turn the tables on his opponent, whom he has been training for since December.
« I think he’s a good one Fighter. I think he’s a bit wild, but that fits his personality, « said Reyes. » I think he fights with his heart up his sleeve. «
» With any strength you can redirect them and against them use if they are reckless with it. And he can be inconsiderate with it, ”he continued. “He has a lot of strength. He has a lot of things ahead of him, but he’s having a hard time using them and I plan to use his wild style against him. “
Reyes brings what he considers healthier to this fight than he did the last time he stepped into the octagon. He expects that this can only be enriching.
« Before the Jan fight, I didn’t enjoy the little things like the opportunity to just be there, » says Reyes, « and this time it’s me. »
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