When Dominick Reyes starts talking about his UFC 247 main event against Jon Jones, it’s hard for him to stop. Once he does, he laughs.
“I’m so ready for this, man,” said Reyes, the unbeaten contender who will attempt to do what no one else has been able to do – score a legitimate victory over Jones and take his light heavyweight title. That’s a daunting prospect, but Reyes is embracing it and not letting any of the hype of the biggest fight of his life get to him.
“I just stay in the routine,” said the Californian. “The routine keeps you level.”
It also reminds him of the task at hand, which isn’t making the wittiest comments on social media or building his brand as a UFC superstar; it’s winning the fight, both mentally and physically. The physical part will take place at Toyota Center in Houston on Saturday. The mental fight? Reyes believes he got the edge when the two squared off during a press conference last December.
“I think he was a little bit shook,” Reyes said. “He even asked me after we did our initial faceoff, ‘Do you really think you can beat me?’ Absolutely, let’s go. And it pissed him off. It was crazy. It’s been a long time since he’s come against someone who truly believes they can beat him.”
And Reyes believes. Despite Jones’ dominance, the challenger’s confidence is steeped in his own results, especially in the UFC, where he’s gone 6-0 since his debut in 2017. And outside of a close split decision win over Volkan Oezdemir, “The Devastator” has barely been touched, with his list of Octagon victims including the names Jared Cannonier, Ovince Saint Preux and Chris Weidman.
But make no mistake about it, Reyes is ready, willing and able to go to those dark places if he has to in order to get the belt this weekend.
“I expect to be bleeding,” he said. “I’m willing to give as much blood as necessary. Take it, you can have it, but I’m walking away with that gold.”
Does Reyes believe Jones feels the same way when it comes to going to the places few fighters willingly want to see?
“I don’t know, man. I don’t think he does,” said Reyes. “Unless you really want to go there, and I really do, it’s not the place you want to be. But I think he’ll go there. He’s been there before. But he’ll go because his ego won’t let him not go there. Ego drives him more than anything else. Love doesn’t drive him, passion doesn’t drive him; his ego does. Love drives me, passion drives me, and that’s why I’m gonna win.”
It’s the confidence of any challenger about to take on the champ, but it sounds a little different coming from the mouth of Reyes, who has had the best camp of his career at the perfect time.
“It just feels better, like I kind of figured it out,” said of his prep for the Jones fight. “Not all of it, but I figured out the best way to maximize the camp. I’m at the point where I know what I’m doing. It’s really hard to explain, but now is the time. It feels easier. I think one of my gifts is that I’m always trying to improve and I always look at things objectively and really try to maximize my performance and look at how I was feeling. I do keep a journal of every fight camp and look at the past and what mistakes I made and how I was feeling, and I learn from it. And I think that’s been a big part of growing so quickly.”
Reyes’ calm is rare for someone in his position. But it bears repeating again that he believes. And sometimes that’s all it takes.
“It really comes down to the mentality,” Reyes explains. “He’s a great champion and all that, but he has everything to lose. I’ve got nothing to lose. I go out there and fight with all my heart and do everything in my power, I’m gonna win. It’s just that simple. And if I don’t, my one loss is to Jon Jones. It’s a win-win. People are gonna respect me after this fight no matter what. That’s how I’m coming in.”
And if he wins, everyone will know Dominick Reyes’ name.
“I’ll shake up the whole world,” he said. “I’m fully aware of what’s gonna happen and honestly, I’ve been preparing my whole life. Becoming a champion doesn’t happen overnight; it doesn’t happen when you knock out the champion. It’s a lifelong pursuit. It’s the way you live your life, it’s how you do things that make you a champion. That being said, I beat him – which I expect to do – and it’s just business as usual. It’s just a little more media, a little more public speaking, it’s getting my message out to a few more kids, saving a couple more lives with suicide prevention. It’s just expanding my platform, that’s all it really is.”
He makes it sound like a walk in the park. But it’s not. Reyes knows it, just like Jones knows he’s in for a fight with a hungry challenger this weekend. But that’s more of the mental battle. On Saturday, Reyes and Jones fight, and Reyes has a message for the champ:
“It doesn’t matter what you say. I’m coming for you.”
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