Ready or not, Dominick Reyes knows that everyone expects big things from him.
That’s the burden on every undefeated fighter, especially one who has gone 5-0 in the UFC’s light heavyweight division with three first-round finishes. The hype train on Reyes has hardly slowed as his competition has improved, with him picking up a convincing unanimous decision win over Ovince Saint Preux and a more contentious split nod over Volkan Oezdemir this past weekend at UFC London.
Still, the record books will show that Reyes beat Oezdemir, a recent UFC title challenger, on the scorecards, and that victory will likely earn Reyes a top-5 contender’s spot when the official rankings are updated. Looming in the distance is 205-pound king Jon Jones and Reyes appears to be on a collision course with “Bones”.
During an appearance on The MMA Hour on Monday, Reyes was asked how close he feels he is to getting that title shot.
“I feel that I need another fight under my belt before I fight Jon,” Reyes said. “So maybe one, two more, and we’re dancing.”
Reyes expects that it will be at least a couple of months before he can take his next booking, which gives him time to see how the rest of the light heavyweight division will shake out. Currently, Brazilian veteran Thiago Santos is expected to be a prime candidate to fight Jones next, but other fresh challengers have been tossed out by fans and media including Johnny Walker and Corey Anderson.
In Jones’s most recent title defense, he methodically outpointed Anthony Smith. Reyes was complimentary of the champ while also wondering if there was more that Smith and Jones’s other past conquests could have done inside the cage.
“Championship performance,” Reyes said of Jones’s win at UFC 235. “He’s the champ for a reason. He has great game plans and he did his thing. It was just classic Jon, neutralizing his opponent and getting the win.”
“I think the common thread would be people kind of get in their own heads and let Jon dictate the pace of the fight as opposed to just throwing caution to the wind or — I feel (Alexander Gustafsson) did it best with his movement and avoiding those knee kicks. Jon puts you in awkward situations, he’ll make you do things that you’re not as comfortable doing, but he’ll put you there,” Reyes continued, discussing what kind of approach it might take to give Jones a real challenge.
“I think it’s about being comfortable being uncomfortable against Jon. If that makes sense.”
And Reyes definitely wants to put that theory to the test above all else. He said he’ll be happy getting a title shot under any circumstances, but that beating Jones for the belt would be ideal.
In 26 pro bouts, Jones has yet to taste defeat outside of a disqualification early in his career, and Reyes wants to be the one to hand him his first proper loss.
“I would love to be the guy [to defeat Jones],” Reyes said. “Not many times in your life do you get the opportunity to do something like that.”
At 29 years old, Reyes is in his prime and he is grateful that his last two fights have gone the distance, so that he might learn as much as possible before it’s time to face the best of the best. He refrained from making any bold proclamations, but admitted that a showdown with Jones has long been on his mind.
“I’ve thought of it before, but that’s something you don’t really think too hard on it until you get there,” Reyes said. “When I first came into MMA, it was always train to beat Jon. Do everything right to beat Jon when you do fight him. So I think when the time comes, I’ll be ready. I know it’s coming soon, so I’m getting there.”