UFC Adelaide will be a decisive moment in Wilson Reis’ career.
Battling a three-fight losing skid for the first time as a mixed martial artist, Reis has his back against the wall at Saturday’s flyweight bout with Ben Nguyen. Under normal circumstances, his job would likely be on the line with the risk of a fourth loss in Australia, but the end of the flyweight divisions looking eminent for 2019 makes a win even more important.
Flyweight champion Henry Cejudo is set to defend his UFC crown against bantamweight kingpin T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 233 on Jan. 26. Dana White said earlier this week that he has tried to keep the division “alive”, but “we’ll see what the future holds for it.”
For Reis, the fate of the flyweight division might rest in Cejudo’s hands.
”I haven’t heard anything from the UFC yet, and I pray that it’s just a rumor, especially if Cejudo wins his fight,” Reis told MMA Fighting. “That’s not good because you put a huge pressure over an athlete. It looks like the division will continue if he wins, but won’t if he loses. I hope it’s just a rumor. We’re doing great fights, there are great athletes, and future looks great, My dream is to win the UFC flyweight belt and I haven’t given up. Fighters from all over the world dream to be in the UFC, and it would be sad if they don’t have this opportunity.”
The former flyweight title contender has competed at both bantamweight and featherweight before cutting all the way down to 125 pounds in the UFC, and “will definitely move up to bantamweight” if the flyweights are removed from the company’s plans following Cejudo vs. Dillashaw in January.
”I’ve fought at bantamweight several times before so it wouldn’t be a problem,” Reis said. “I’d rather fight at flyweight, this is my 10th fight at 125 (pounds) and I feel more comfortable here. I would lose less weight, but I think the flyweight division is ideal for me.”
For such an important fight in his career, Reis decided to switch things up a little bit. Before starting his camp at Alliance MMA in San Diego, the 33-year-old Brazilian flew to Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais to train at BH Rhinos, Pedro Novaes Muay Thai and Clube de Boxe, doing a six-week pre-camp in Brazil for the first time in his life.
”I wanted to get out and spend some time in Brazil,” Reis said. “It’s great to go out there to train, do some different sparring, learn different techniques. Belo Horizonte is my girlfriend’s hometown and it’s close to my hometown as well, so I was close to my parents. Being there was great. I went back to San Diego eight weeks before the fight, which was the ideal for my camp.”
Reis says that being surrounded by family and friends before kicking off his camp in the United States was helpful, and looking to get back on track following losses to Demetrious Johnson, Henry Cejudo and John Moraga added extra motivation as well.
”I can’t not think about it, it was in my head, but I’m a very positive guy and I don’t put pressure over myself,” Reis said. “It’s just another fight, but I want to stay in the UFC, I want to win. I haven’t won my last three fights, so I want to win. I want to continue in the UFC, the biggest promotion in the world, but more importantly I want to evolve as a fighter, as a professional, and come back to the wins.”
”I’ve fought the best in the world, so I’ve added more experience to my game,” he continued. “Those three losses were to three of the best flyweights in the world, and I learn a lot with my losses, too. I’m way better now, more experienced for this fight. Those losses have definitely added a lot to my game as an athlete.”
Reis’ opponent at UFC Adelaide, Nguyen is also coming off a defeat in the Octagon, a third-round submission to Jussier Formiga in his native country, but Reis considers him “a tough opponent.”
”I’ve followed him before he even got to the UFC, when he was just a prospect,” Reis said. “I knew he would get in the UFC and make some noise here. I’ve studied his game, he’s very versatile on the feet and has heavy hands, good kicks, and doesn’t fool around with the scrambles. He’s very complete. With the submissions, taking the backs, he’s good. But I’ve trained everywhere and I’m prepared for him.”
Nguyen has been finished in all of his seven losses in MMA, twice under the bright lights of the UFC, and that gives Reis more confidence that another finish is coming Saturday night.
”I see myself winning this fight by knockout or submission,” said Reis, who has a pair of submission victories since joining the UFC in 2013. “I’m doing great on the feet, I’ve been training a lot. I haven’t won a fight by knockout yet in my career, but I’m getting mored experienced, so I really want to surprise him in this fight.”