Four up, four down, and in Dominick Reyes’ mind, he’s only one or two more wins away from a shot at the light heavyweight title.
“I think a lot of it depends on this performance,” Reyes said. “If I go out and destroy Volkan in the first round, second round, then I’m 5-0 in the division. I’m the only guy that’s 5-0 in the division. I beat three ranked guys in a row, and the case is very strong.”
It's hard to disagree. As Jon Jones continues to pick apart the top contenders at 205 pounds, Reyes seems to be near the front of the line. Those wins don’t just happen, though, and before Reyes can shift his eyes to the belt, he’ll look across the cage to a man who was challenging for the crown a little more than a year ago.
Volkan Oezdemir, fresh off a loss to recent light heavyweight title challenger Anthony Smith at UFC Moncton, is trying to get back on track. “The Devastator” said he likes to study his opponents heavily, and he is aware of the desperation levels that his opponent might carry into the Octagon. With that in mind, believes his speed and mobility will keep him away from Oezdemir’s fight-ending power.
Confident since the moment he walked into the UFC Octagon, Reyes has enjoyed his first time in London, and he’s even more excited to see the crowd inside the O2 Arena.
“It’s f***ing tight,” Reyes said. “It’s London in the O2, one of the most ruckus arenas in the world. I live for that s***. The bigger and the more rowdy the crowd, the better I perform. This is it. This is why I do it, really. It’s for that rush. The wild animals in the crowd going crazy, and I love it.”
Before he takes on Oezdemir, Reyes talked about his fast ascension up the light heavyweight rankings, training in Denver and how he’s preparing to face “No Time.”
UFC: It’s been five months since your OSP win, what’s life been like since your win at UFC 229?
Dominick Reyes: Since the OSP win, it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been travelling, going to China. Everything has been great. I’ve been enjoying every moment. People recognize me a lot more, which is really cool. I’m training with Team Elevation now in Colorado. Just enjoying the ride. Every day is like a new little experience. Somebody new recognizes me, or some new perk, or something cool. It’s a lot of fun.
UFC: You’re a confident guy, but what is it like now that you’re ranked and seeing your profile rise?
DR: It’s kind of like a video game, man. I started off from the unknown ranks, and I’m literally moving up just like a video game. Win this fight, you move up. Win this fight, you move up, and it’s cool because nobody else has control of anything I do but what I do.
UFC: Talking about your opponent, he was challenging for the title just two fights ago. What are you expecting from him seeing as he’s coming off two straight losses?
DR: We’re always trying to win all the time. Every second of the fight, we’re trying to win. I don’t feel like it adds a sense of urgency for him, I just feel like he wants to win really bad. I want to win really bad. I win my next two or my next one, and I’m getting a title shot, so as bad as he wants to win, I want to win. I know he went back to Switzerland, and he was back with his home team that he started with before he got in the UFC, so I’m expecting a little bit different wrinkles in his game, but at the end of the day, he’s never fought me, I’ve never fought him, so when we come in front of each other, we make our adjustments on the fly.
UFC: Volkan is probably the most powerful fighter you’ve faced, so how do you manage that throughout a fight?
DR: You just control the distance, and you move. You don’t stand in front of him. I’m not a light heavyweight that has trouble with mobility. A lot of guys he’s fought do. Jimi Manuwa isn’t the most mobile guy. Misha Cirkunov, that was a weird fight. He gave him the opportunity. It’s all about opportunity. I’m not going to give that opportunity. If he wants to clinch, I’m going to clinch right back, but I have a gameplan. There’s a gameplan for this, and it’s just mobility. You have to catch me before you can hit me.
UFC: Does training in Denver make that much of a difference for your cardio?
DR: It’s a real thing. When I first got to Denver, it was horrible. What you want to do and you know you can do, you can’t do because your body just – there’s not enough oxygen. Your body is just trying to process oxygen. It’s just not there, and you just feel like a scrub, like a bum, like, ‘What’s going on? I’m usually better than this guys, I’m sorry.’ And it’s just the altitude. It’s literally not oxygen in the air, so when I got here, it feels like I have an extra set of lungs, and I’m doing rounds, I’m moving around and I’m not even getting tired. I’m sweating, but I’m not getting tired, so it’s cool.
Zac Pacleb is a writer and producer for UFC.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ZacPacleb.