Dominick Reyes putting title setbacks in past

Once upon a time, two-time UFC mild heavyweight title challenger Dominick Reyes was maybe the best security in Stony Brook soccer historical past. He even harbored NFL aspirations, one thing he didn’t count on when he first trekked from Southern California to Long Island for school.

“My goal was just to get a degree, to be honest” Reyes informed The Post. “It was the free education [that] was the big thing for me. But then, once I realized I was pretty good, the NFL became my ultimate goal.”

It’s been eight years for the reason that league handed on Reyes (12-2, 9 finishes) in the draft, however inside two years he had already moved to 2-0 in blended martial arts. And with the 2021 NFL Draft wrapping up just a few hours earlier than he headlines an ESPN-aired UFC Fight Night from UFC Apex in Las Vegas in opposition to Jiri Prochazka, he’s utterly moved on from soccer. He says he didn’t even know the draft was occurring this week till requested about it.

“I’m in a whole ‘nother life,” Reyes stated.

That life, after all, is concentrated on MMA. Reyes spent his complete 2020 competing for UFC gold at 205 kilos. Last February, he got here up brief in a hotly-debated unanimous determination in opposition to longtime pound-for-pound staple Jon Jones. When Jones made the long-awaited determination to maneuver as much as heavyweight and relinquish the sunshine heavyweight belt, Reyes was booked for a September conflict in opposition to Jan Blachowicz to find out the brand new champion. That combat went haywire for Reyes, who was completed for the primary time in his profession by way of second-round TKO.

He went so far as to name the loss to Blachowicz “essentially a disaster.”

“I didn’t perform,” Reyes stated. “I’m not concerned with the win and the loss, I’m concerned with not performing. That was the issue for me.”

Dominick Reyes and Jiri Prochazka weigh in ahead of their UFC Apex bout.
Dominick Reyes (r.) and Jiri Prochazka weigh in forward of their UFC Apex bout.
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“I was concerned with the outcome,” he went on, addressing why he didn’t meet his personal expectations. “I wanted to win the belt. I didn’t want to lose. You know when you fight or play a game or anything to not lose, you’re not gonna perform. You’re just out there to not lose. There’s no worse thing to an athlete than playing to not lose rather than playing to win, playing to perform at your best, [your] highest level. … I didn’t want to get knocked out. I didn’t want to make a mistake. And in doing that, I made several mistakes, and I got knocked out.”

Reyes, 31, rapidly corrects himself that he obtained “knocked down” as a substitute of KO’d, though he swears that he has put each 2020 defeats in the past. Nonetheless, the combat was halted with a definitive outcome, and Blachowicz already defended his championship as soon as efficiently. He’ll put it on the road later this yr, however Reyes’ climb again to that place begins this weekend in opposition to Prochazka (27-3-1, 26 finishes).

The 28-year-old from the Czech Republic made a monster impression in his UFC debut final yr after competing for the earlier 5 years nearly completely for Japan-based Rizin FF. The heavy-hitting Prochazka, whose eccentric character manifests in the cage as effectively, launched himself to the UFC’s viewers with a thunderous KO of former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir in July. He’s received 11 in a row, the final 9 by (T)KO.

“I respect how he approaches the fight game,” Reyes stated of Prochazka, whom he had not but met as of midweek. “He has more of, like, a samurai style, embracing the fight and really fighting defining him.”

Prochazka could possibly be knocking on the door of a UFC title problem with a win in his first combat on U.S. soil. But Reyes, who was complementary of the Czech striker’s first UFC win, feels assured he has the instruments to show the tables on his opponent, for whom he has been coaching since December.

“I think he’s a good fighter. I think he’s a little bit wild, but that kind of goes with his personality,” Reyes stated. “I think he fights with his heart on his sleeve.”

“With any force, you can redirect it and use it against them, if they’re kind of being reckless with it. And he can be reckless with it,” he continued. “He has a lot of power. He has a lot of things going for him, but he has a hard time harnessing it, and I plan on using his wild style against him.”

Reyes brings what he views as a extra wholesome way of thinking to this combat than he had the final time he stepped into the octagon, one thing he expects can solely be an asset.

“Before the Jan fight, I wasn’t enjoying the little things, like the opportunity just to be there,” Reyes says, “and this time, I am.”

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