Wilson Reis agreed to fight Joseph Benavidez inside the Octagon, but the decision to select Benavidez as one of the coaches of The Ultimate Fighter 24 opposite Henry Cejudo ended up giving the Brazilian the biggest fight of his life.
A former EliteXC featherweight champion, Reis will challenge Demetrious Johnson for the UFC flyweight championship in the co-main event of UFC 201 in Atlanta, and the Alliance MMA product wasn’t completely taken off guard when his coach Eric Del Fierro called him with the good news.
"I wasn’t so surprised because I looked at the top 10 of the division and -- in my mind -- they would have to figure out who they would give [Johnson] next," Reis told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. "I thought they were gonna wait to see who was going to win between me and Joseph Benavidez. It was kind of verbally agreed to fight each other, so that’s why I expected to fight Benavidez next. But then I saw that Joseph got scheduled to be the (TUF) coach and fight Cejudo.
"So I looked at the top 10 again and, from the first to the tenth, there’s four guys that haven’t fought him yet, [Jussier] Formiga, myself, [Zach] Makovsky and Dustin Ortiz, but three of them are coming off a loss, and I’m the only guy, now ranked at eighth, coming off a win. So, that could be me. At that point I didn’t know what was going on. I had a feeling that he would have to fight again before The Ultimate Fighter, you know. I was definitely extremely happy with the call, and super ready to take it too."
Johnson has looked dominant since cutting down to 125 pounds, racking up a 10-0-1 record with eight title defenses. In his last appearance, "Mighty Mouse" dispatched Cejudo in less than three minutes.
"I have watched all his fights at flyweight, and I always see the same thing," Reis said. "Of course, every time he’s looking better and better. It looks like his last fight… it was hard to judge the last fight. He looked really good, but I just don’t think Cejudo was really a match against him, you know? So it’s hard to judge on my point of view, but I’m definitely gonna shock the world on July 30."
Reis joined the UFC in 2014, and won three of four since cutting down to flyweight, including a first-round submission over Scott Jorgensen. The Brazilian, who competed the majority of his career at bantamweight and featherweight, feels at his best as a flyweight.
"For me, it was always a problem with the reach and height," he said. "At 125, I feel guys are still gonna be an inch or two taller, but it’s not a huge difference (compared to) 135 and 145. Those guys were just too big for me. At 125 I have the strength advantage, and I also have the speed and the size. I’m not oversized anymore. I feel comfortable now. And since I have to really focus on my diet to make the weight I just became a better athlete. It’s all for the good."
According to their profile on UFC’s official website, Reis will have a small reach and height advantage over the champion. Johnson’s last three opponents also had reach and height advantages over him, though, and they all lost in dominant fashion.
"Mighty Mouse" has looked unstoppable at 125 pounds, but Reis believes he knows the path to defeat him.
"I don’t want to point anything out now, but I see a lot of holes," he said. "I do see them, yeah. And I will showcase that on July 30.
"I not only envision it, but I’m 100 percent capable of doing it. To finish him in the beginning of the fight, in the middle of the fight, in the end of the fight. I see myself winning everywhere and winning every minute of the fight."