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Wilson Reis: UFC 236 win would ‘guarantee my spot in the UFC’

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Wilson Reis is a former UFC title challenger in the flyweight division.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The future is still unclear for the flyweight division in the UFC, and every fight feels like a potential loser-leaves-town situation. Wilson Reis, one of the veteran flyweights in the UFC, treats every single bout that way.

Reis took on fellow top-10 flyweight Ben Nguyen in December and snapped an uncomfortable three-fight losing skid with a decision victory. In the aftermath, Nguyen was let go by the promotion. On Saturday night, Reis meets fellow Brazilian Alexandre Pantoja at UFC 236 in Atlanta, and still feels his job could be on the line one more time.

”The guy I just beat was a top 10 in the division and was cut the day after the fight, so that’s what it looks like,” Reis told MMA Fighting. “You have to use that as motivation to win. No matter what the future holds for the division, it’s my future in the UFC. This is a fight I have to win, there’s no other way. When I was going into my last fight with Ben Nguyen, I knew that I had to win otherwise I wouldn’t have this fight now. I’m going there with this mindset, this is the fight to win to guarantee my spot in the UFC no matter what happens with the division.”

If the UFC really does shut down the weight class, especially with flyweight champion Henry Cejudo moving up to 135 pounds to face Marlon Moraes for the vacant bantamweight belt, some flyweights would probably be given the opportunity to compete in the heavier division.

”I’d rather fight at flyweight, which is my natural weight class,” Reis said, “but if the UFC no longer has this division I will go up to 135. I’ve fought at 135 before and I’d make the adjustments I need to do well there. I want to be in the UFC no matter how, so I will fight with everything I have to not only win, but win impressively, finish Pantoja. There aren’t many flyweights in the UFC today, so every fight is going to be big.”

Many flyweights have promised exciting contests in order to convince the UFC brass to keep the division going, and Reis will follow that trend.

”I’m fighting Pantoja in his prime and this fight will be talked about for a long time,” Reis said. “I think it’s going to be a brawl. We’ll both try to take the fight where we think we have an advantage and whoever gets there first will have success, and it will definitely be me. It will be an exciting fight.”

Even though he wishes to continue fighting at flyweight, the former EliteXC bantamweight champion — who even fought as a featherweight under the Bellator banner — expects to have no issue adapting his training to perform at a high level at 135 pounds.

”I have no problem making weight, I know my body and I make flyweight really well,” Reis said. “I don’t have a reach disadvantage at flyweight even with bigger guys in the division, but that changes at 135 because they are bigger than me in every aspect. I can go back to bantamweight, but I prefer fighting at flyweight.”

Reis and Pantoja have 18 submission finishes combined in MMA, and Reis worked with jiu-jitsu legends Andre Galvao and Eduardo Telles in San Diego to prepare for Pantoja’s slick ground skills.

”Training with Andre and his students was great,” Reis said. “I know him since my adolescence, we grew up together in jiu-jitsu, and he knows my game really well. Everyone from his team has high-level jiu-jitsu. Training jiu-jitsu there is like training MMA at Alliance. I see myself submitting Pantoja late in the first round or in the second round.”

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