The winner of the recent Powerball jackpot of over two billion dollars is from California, but it isn’t Dominick Reyes. Yet even if it was, the Hesperia native said he would still show up to Madison Square Garden this Saturday night to take care of business with Ryan Spann.
“It's something I truly love to do,” said Reyes. “I love fighting and I've done all the work for this long, I might as well get to the finish line and beat up Spann and then be done. I have to finish on top.”
Reyes admits that a couple billion dollars would likely mean this is his last fight, something that went through his mind after his most recent one, a brutal May 2021 battle with current UFC light heavyweight champion Jiri Prochazka.
“After that fight, I was like, I don't know,” he said. “This is crazy. It was pretty eye-opening. When you keep winning fights and knocking people out and you're barely getting hit, you're like, it's cool, I can go forever. And then you have fights like that and you're like, man, there's got to be an easier way.”
For pure, visceral, back-and-forth action, that Fight of the Night headliner was as real as it gets, with both having their moments before Prochazka ended matters at 4:29 of the second round. And while it was a crushing loss for Reyes, and his third in a row, it’s not like he’s erased it from his memory bank. In fact, it was the kind of fight he wanted.
“The crazy thing about it, which is insane to me, is that at that time, I wanted that fight,” Reyes laughs. “I wanted a Fight of the Night, I wanted to bleed. I went into that fight wanting that kind of fight, which is insane to think about now. Why? I don't know why I wanted it, but I got exactly what I wanted.”
And when he watches it these days?
“That took a lot of guts. I watched the fight and I'm like, 'Man, I'm a serious motherf**ker.' You literally have to kill me to get me out of there. He punches really hard and that wasn't enough. It was stunning me a little bit but not like where I was all hurt. My face is getting messed up, but I'm still here, and I can still win at any time. I fought all the way to the end. And I went down literally throwing a punch. It was crazy.”
It was, but after the dust settled and he was able to put it in his rearview mirror, he realized he still wanted to fight and chase after the light heavyweight championship many believed he deserved to win before losing a decision to Jon Jones in February of 2020. When Reyes returned to fight for the title Jones vacated seven months later, his head didn’t seem in it as he was stopped by Jan Blachowicz, and then came the Prochazka fight. So from being thisclose to being champion to a fighter with a three-fight losing streak, Reyes needed a change of scenery for his return.
“I needed a change,” Reyes said. “I needed to get out of my comfort zone. I felt like I was getting stale with the training, and it started feeling like work more than enjoyable. It was time for me to spread my wings and try a new place. I never left the desert my whole career, so it was just time.”
Destination Bethel, Connecticut, home to Teixeira MMA & Fitness to former light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira, not to mention two fighters competing this weekend at MSG, middleweight title challenger Alex Pereira and 185-pound prospect Wellington Turman.
“Connecticut is like a family,” said Reyes. “I can't explain it. Everybody is looking out for each other. It's rare that you walk into a gym and everybody wants everybody else to succeed, no matter what weight class you're in. Glover's a hundred percent there for me for everything I need. I'm at his house almost every day, going in his ice bath, hanging out and just talking. And coach Fernely Feliz is an amazing boxing coach. I think the biggest takeaway from this was improving my defense and my defensive awareness and being able to not get hit.”
That’s important, I joke.
“I was lacking that in my last two fights,” laughs Reyes. “I said, I need to fix this.”
Apparently, he has, with Reyes raving about his new teammates and coaches and how they’ve prepared him for his bout with Spann, one that is pivotal if he wants to make another run at glory. It’s a lot to put on someone who only has 15 pro fights thus far, but that never stopped the internet.
“They definitely don't realize that I've only been in there for 15 fights,” he said. “And at the same time, they forget the fights that I put on. At the end of it all, there's gonna be all these fights - the Jon Jones fight, the Jiri fight, the (Chris) Weidman fight - I fought four champions in a row and they were all different styles of fights, and I'm really proud of the work I've done and my body of work so far. It's something later on that I'm gonna look back on. Those were all at completely different points of my life when I was feeling a completely different way and they're like little time capsules.”
Now it’s time for a new one, and this time, Reyes isn’t fighting to please anyone but himself.
Remember The Name: Dominick Reyes
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Remember The Name: Dominick Reyes
“I learned that, at the end of the day, I gotta do what makes me happy,” he said. “I'm fighting for myself and for my family. The public is fickle. I used to care a lot, and now I don't give a s**t. I'm there to get paid and do what I love to do, and that's it. I don't look into all the media and what they're saying. I don't care anymore about any of it.”
Maybe not, but the 32-year-old does get the sense that he’s got a lot of fans in his corner in the Big Apple.
“The overall feeling about it is that people are excited to see me come back, they really are, and they're rooting for me to get back in the win column, and that's cool.”
Reyes plans to give the people what they want.
“I gotta come out on top, and this one, I'm definitely coming out on top,” he said. “I like this matchup. He's a good fighter, a really tough fighter, but he's not the one.”
UFC 281: Adesanya vs Pereira took place live from Madison Square Garden in New York City on November 12, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards, and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!