World titles, fame, and money all take a backseat to Gaston Reyno’s main objective now fighting for Combate Americas.
The featherweight fighter will start a new chapter to his MMA career on Friday night in Long Beach, Calif., as he makes his promotional debut at Combate Americas: Camino A Copa Combate against Carlos Ochoa. And for Reyno, a fresh start under a new organization brings with it new goals and pursuits.
The former Bellator athlete dreams of bringing an event to his home country.
“What I would really like to do is be able to bring an event to Uruguay,” Reyno told MMA Fighting. “I dream of selling out a stadium there and I know that Combate (Americas) can do it. They have the power to do very big promotion in Uruguay and being able to find top notch opposition, so that’s what I would love to do.”
For Reyno, this new ambition ranks higher than any others he can achieve for himself in mixed martial arts, and that includes winning world titles and making the big bucks.
“Without a doubt, without a doubt, by miles,” Reyno said. “I want MMA to grow in Uruguay and I have a very clear [goal] that I need to help create a bridge between Uruguayan fighters and the organizations here (in the U.S.), so taking an event to Uruguay would be incredible.
“I don’t dream of leaving rich or having a belt, although that would be nice. I would love to have a huge event in Uruguay. I think that can change the lives of my Uruguayans so other Uruguayans can be able to showcase their talent, so that in the future we not only have one fighter representing us, but many more.”
Reyno prioritizing bringing a high-profile event to his South American country over his want for personal gains may be surprising to some, but the same passion that drives Reyno is the reason why Reyno’s popularity and fandom back home is stronger than many current UFC fighters.
“In Uruguay, we’re a family of 3 million, so we support each other no matter what,” Reyno explained. “There are athletes that maybe I know very little about their sport, like we have a sail competitor (Dolores Moreira) and she’s now competing in Japan, and to be honest I have no idea about the sport of sailing, but just because she’s Uruguayan and she represents us, I’m rooting for her. ‘Lets go Lola, stay strong, Uruguay and nothing else,’ and that’s how Uruguayans are.
“We’re a family of 3 million people and we support each other in anything. We’re not fans, you can say we’re all family.”
Reyno’s popularity as a fighter has him rubbing shoulders with some of the country’s biggest athletes, including soccer stars Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez, Diego Godin, Jose Maria Gimenez and many more.
Although soccer and MMA are two completely separate worlds, Reyno draws a lot of inspiration from his fellow countrymen who compete at the highest levels of their respective sports.
“If you turn over a stone in Uruguay, you find a soccer player,” Reyno said with a laugh. “All the best clubs in the world have a Uruguayan player. And the best part about our soccer players is that they’re not only big in the field, but also outside of it. They’re great examples for all of us.”
Yet, although Reyno feel the backing of an entire country, he still has the big task of carving out a road for himself in MMA, as there are few Uruguayan athletes who compete in MMA and even fewer who do it at an international level like himself.
“As far as athletes, we have one fighter, one tennis player, one runner, but our biggest examples are the soccer players,” Reyno said.
“If you want to be a soccer player in Uruguay, you have tons of examples. You need to start in the juvenile divisions, then play in a bigger team, then make the step to Europe, participate in the national team, score in a World Cup, and that’s how you do well in your career. But as far as being an Uruguayan fighter, I had no idea who to follow. I would follow Donatello from Ninja Turtles, that was the best example I had. But thankfully, step after step one thing led to another, I was able to make it.”
Reyno, who trains out of the world-class gym Alliance MMA, couldn’t be any happier fighting for a promotion that focuses on the Hispanic community. His journey to put Uruguay on the map of MMA begins on Friday.
“For us, it’s a blessing,” Reyno said. “If we were to talk about this five years ago, that there was going to be a company that was going to push the Hispanic talent and it was going to give us a platform to show the Latin fighters, it would’ve been just a dream. But now it’s really happening.
“It keeps growing and it’s a great opportunity for tons of youngsters to not have to go through what some other fighters like myself had to go through. ‘Goyito’ Perez, for example, had to come by himself (to the U.S.), I also had to do the same with one hand in front and one hand in the back [Spanish saying meaning not having money], with nothing, just to see what would happen.
“There are a ton of Latin American fighters that from their countries, they already signed contracts with Combate Americas, so they do have it a lot more easier than what some of us had it and that’s amazing because that will translate to the growth of the talent there.”