Dominick Reyes began to question his future and his love of mixed martial arts after suffering back-to-back losses in 2020 to Jon Jones and Jan Blachowicz in fights for the UFC light heavyweight title.
The fighter of Mexican descent, who was undefeated in 12 bouts as a professional before last year, also struggled with the global pandemic, as his father José was ill with COVID-19 as Reyes prepared to fight Blachowicz in September.
The adverse results in and out of the Octagon not only affected his record, but also his psyche.
“I was like, ‘I can’t wait for my career to end.’ I didn’t feel it was worth it [seguir]”Reyes said in an interview with ESPN prior to his return to the Octagon this Saturday against Jiri Prochazka in the main event of UFC Fight Night.
While it is true that Reyes never publicly stated his desire to move away from mixed martial arts, it is clear that when he initially committed to fighting Prochazka, the 31-year-old was still not emotionally overcoming his confrontations with Jones and Blachowicz.
For an instant, it seemed that Reyes was more inclined to prepare to pursue one of his various interests in life, ranging from his passion for offroad vehicles to construction to a new love for poetry.
Eventually, his father recovered from the illness, and while preparing for the fight against Prochazka earlier this year, Reyes experienced an emotional turn.
“Everything started to come back. Suddenly, I learn again, I enjoy it again, I see improvements and I have fun. That’s how everything started to come back, ”Reyes said.
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Although he is not the betting favorite in the fight against former Strikeforce champion and Rizin, Reyes sees his opponent as the one who faces a greater challenge.
After all, Reyes’ explosive style has led him to seven knockouts and two submissions in 12 professional wins. Even his loss to Jones in February 2020 can be considered a career bar, as it was an extremely close match that settled on scorecards against one of the best fighters in UFC history.
A quick glance at his highlights can convince anyone that Reyes, a two-time UFC Performance of the Night award winner, is deserving of his nickname “The Devastator” and that a win over Prochazka can put him on his way. to another title fight.
“I don’t need to prove anything, not even to myself,” Reyes says. “I have already ascended the mountain and have earned the respect of the world. All I need to do is touch the top. There is no need to [sumarme] that extra pressure ”.
His 28-year-old opponent, a native of the Czech Republic, has terrified his opponents by adding 24 knockouts in 27 victories in fights organized by different promoters. However, Reyes feels that Prochazka has yet to face someone of his level.
“He has never faced someone with the same athleticism as him, never. That is a fact, ”says Reyes. “He has gotten away with being a better fighter and athlete [dentro del octágono] for a long time. But now you will face the third best in the world, my friend. If you don’t push, it will be a long night for you … or a short night. “
Due to his two consecutive losses, Reyes is aware that this fight represents a must win for him, more than in any of his previous matches in the UFC world, always defined by the most immediate results. Another setback could derail his dream of landing the title. There is a possibility that, with a fighter of Prochazka’s stature, a loss also means suffering a knockout.
Early in Reyes’ career, the mere thought of a loss (not to mention three in a row) was a knockout for well-oiled machinery. As the fighter himself confesses, the bad streak would have made him fall into a spiral of doubts. Listening to him now full of confidence and optimism represents a stark contrast to his mental and emotional state during 2020. Among other factors, Reyes attributes the change to his family and Mexican heritage.
“If you have Mexican blood in your body, you are rude. Automatically, ”says Reyes. “For me, my inheritance represents simply taking care of your affairs. It is a ‘never quit’ attitude. Things will happen, there will always be problems, and [tienes que] keep fighting”.
Before facing Jones and Blachowicz, Reyes says he was fighting for “all the wrong reasons,” making an already tough situation more difficult, adding what he calls unnecessary stress and pressure. Currently, keeping a short distance from the title, Reyes has learned from the past and from his mistakes.
The Hesperia, California native is eager to show fans and the UFC community that he currently has the best of both worlds. The ancient Kings, who seemed to destroy his rivals at will; and the new and more mature version of himself, who has cleared his mind and soul of everything that ailed him.
And while it is true that Reyes’ different interests and passions can lead him to stage a highly satisfying and interesting second act of life, he has not yet given up on a sport that has given him the opportunity to achieve fame and notoriety.
“I have learned the lessons that I needed to learn. I was not ready to become a champion. Now, I feel really confident in what I do, ”says Reyes. “Sometimes you have to bear a loss to grow.”