Dominick Reyes’ authenticity paid off with title shot against Jon Jones

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It’s official: Dominick Reyes is next.

After much speculation and debate, Reyes (12-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) solidified himself as the number one contender for Jon Jones’ UFC light heavyweight title. The two fighters are expected to square off at an event expected to be UFC 247 in Houston on Feb. 8.

After picking up a win over Chris Weidman in his first main event at UFC on ESPN 6 on Oct. 18, Reyes told the World he believed he deserved the next title shot. But beyond viability, Reyes didn’t worry about its probability. The decision was out of his control, after all.

“You never really know, to be honest with you,” Reyes told MMA Junkie. “You can only control things you can control. That’s all I really focused on. I can control what I do in this fight. I can control how I live my life. I can control how I react. But I can’t control what other people do or say.

“I tried not to concern myself too much with the goings-ons of other people. I just focused on what I can do and fight the best I possibly can.”

When it became most difficult for Reyes to stay true, he gambled and remained so. Facing criticism he wasn’t “interesting enough,” “promotable enough,” or “different enough.” Reyes elected not to stray from the recipe which got him to the dance: letting his fighting do the talking.

Throughout his career, the pressure has always been there for Reyes to get the masses on his side. In search of an identifiable medium, Reyes discovered knockouts were successful in gaining fans.

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“I’m a good fighter, I’m a good athlete,” Reyes said. “I’m where I’m supposed to be. I’m in the upper echelon of the fighters. For me, the hard part in my career has been finding that thing that makes me relatable to the fans. Finding that thing that is going to get people really excited about. I’ve found that knocking people out helps.”

It’s not just fans and media who have questioned Reyes’ ability to be more than just a foil to Jones (25-1 MMA, 19-1 UFC). The UFC light heavyweight champ himself has helped build that narrative. Various tweets posted by Jones over the past month have been critical of Reyes. But when it came time to “decide” who we wanted next, Jones chose Reyes.

In response, Reyes tweeted at Jones calling the matchup “an honor.” Jones wasn’t a fan of Reyes’ compliment in the midst of their usual bickering and let him know. “You started this whole thing talking about party favors and now you’re going to show this fake ass respect?” Jones wrote.

“I think his comments are that he’s just confused,” Reyes said. “He doesn’t know how to take me. He hasn’t met me, I’ve never met him. He doesn’t know whether I’m being cocky or what. I have a tremendous amount of a respect for Jon – a huge amount of respect for Jon. Especially in the cage as a fighter and as a champion. As a person? Not as much.

“But he’s still Jon Jones. He’s still the greatest ever. Pound-for-pound number one, right now. If I fight him, it’s huge. It’s this huge opportunity to fight the best fighter ever. I’m aware of what he is. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. It doesn’t mean when I get in the cage I don’t have a tremendous amount of respect for him. We’re fighting. You’re not my friend.

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Reyes continued, “I don’t care – I don’t care who you are or what you did before that. This moment is all that matters and your past means zero to me.”

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