Touted as a heavy favorite to become the new UFC light heavyweight champion after Jon Jones relinquished the belt, Reyes was confident that he was going to finally be crowned the king of the division with only one more obstacle left to overcome.
After pushing Jones to the brink with many believing he deserved the win that night, Reyes had supreme confidence that it was only a matter of time before he became champion. And then the world fell down around him.
“Anything that could have gone wrong, went wrong,” Reyes said about his fight against Blachowicz when speaking to MMA Fighting. “It’s a good learning experience. At the end of the day, it’s a great learning experience. I’m still young in my career. I’m just coming into my prime as a man. I’ve got a lot of fun times ahead of me.
“A lot of people have been recently counting me out as if I died or something. No, I just got knocked down. It is what it is.”
Prior to the fight itself, Reyes was already battling with personal issues after both of his parents contracted COVID-19, which meant he couldn’t be around them during his training camp. As man who is incredibly close with his family, not being able to spend time with his parents was bad enough but then Reyes’ father was really dealing with the ill effects of the deadly disease that has claimed more than 574,000 lives in the United States alone.
At the same time this was happening, Reyes was also attempting to make some changes in his preparation to get ready for Blachowicz, which he discovered ended up being counterproductive to his evolution as a fighter.
“I tried to change up my style and that wasn’t the best idea,” Reyes explained. “Switched coaches and that wasn’t the best idea. It was just a lot. My mom and dad had COVID, at the time, I couldn’t see them for three months leading up to that fight.
“They’re huge, a gigantic part of my life and who I am and where I draw my power and confidence from. I didn’t show up. It’s on me, obviously. I paid the price. I draw most of my strength from my family and to not have them for three months leading up to the fight, not being able to see them or hug them. I could see them on Facetime and things like that but I couldn’t sit and talk with them or anything. My dad was pretty sick and that was weighing on me.”
Thankfully, Reyes’ parents both recovered from having COVID-19, which was far more important to him than any UFC title he would have claimed in the fight.
Still, Reyes just wasn’t in the right place mentally to deal with those kinds of stresses and then traveling halfway around the world to Abu Dhabi for a fight against Blachowicz with the title on the line.
While hesitant to reveal the information, Reyes also disclosed that he actually had a broken nose leading into the title bout, which also forced him to change his strategy after Blachowicz popped him with a shot early in the fight.
“Not a lot of people know this but I had a broken nose going into the fight. I hate saying that because it sounds like an excuse and I f*cking hate excuses,” Reyes said. “But when he barely hit my nose and it crumbles, I’m like sh*t it’s bad. It was bad before.
“I was like I have to do something or they’re going to stop the fight. I went balls to the wall and I didn’t win that exchange.”
For all the ways that Reyes was disappointed in himself that night, he also paid homage to Blachowicz on a job well done after he finished the fight by TKO in the second round.
Reyes definitely looks inward for answers regarding the problems he personally faced in the fight but there was also a punishing light heavyweight from Poland swinging hammers at his head. All told, Reyes believes Blachowicz absolutely deserves credit for a job well done.
“Jan, he put on a great performance that night. He earned that belt,” Reyes said. “He went onto defend it against [Israel Adesanya], who tried to step up, which is awesome for the division. Get us some respect. Right now, he’s a great champ. I respect the hell out of him. I got some good lessons that night about just having fun again and not stressing too much on the outcome and just focus on the journey more than the outcome.
“The whole process of being great. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s years and years of work, dedication and focus and mastering yourself. I lost a little bit of myself going into that fight. I think it was pretty clear in my performance with the way I was moving and what I was doing.”
After falling short in a pair of title fights in 2020, Reyes was just ready to get back to enjoying himself again and remembering what made him fall in love with mixed martial arts in the first place.
“I’m not mad about what happened,” Reyes said about his last loss. “What happened is the way it was supposed to happen. Everything happens for a reason. It gave me the opportunity to grow. Now I’m getting ready to come out a whole new Dom.
“I feel f*cking fantastic. I feel fantastic. I am so ready. I am so freaking ready. I’m back to feeling how I did getting ready for [Chris] Weidman. I want your best version of you. Let’s go, let’s see what you’ve got. I can’t really explain it. I feel fresh. I’ve fallen back in love with the sport. For the last fight, I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing. It felt like a job. It wasn’t the move.”
With this fight, Reyes is drawing a highly touted prospect in Prochazka, who made a big impact in his octagon debut when he took out former title contender Volkan Oezdemir after some wild exchanges on the feet.
Considering the go big or go home style that Prochazka employs, Reyes is salivating at the chance to face him on Saturday night as he looks to restart his run to the top of the light heavyweight division.
“It’s an awesome matchup,” Reyes said. “He’s real exciting or crazy, they’re both interchangeable in his case. He enjoys what he’s doing. It’s going to be great. He enjoys fighting and he’s a really tough guy. I think my experience is going to show in this fight. It’s going to be like this is the UFC, this isn’t RIZIN. No offense to the guys in RIZIN but they’re not at our caliber. They’re not.
“You’re going to see some beautiful work from me. Jiri is going to put up a great fight but it’s not going to be enough. I’m going to come out with my hand raised, on top of the world, ready to take the next step, whatever it may be.”
As far as the title goes, Reyes fully intends on fighting for the belt again but he knows it won’t happen with just a single win over Prochazka this weekend.
With Jones gone, the light heavyweight division has continued to flourish with some veterans and more than a few newcomers shaking up the status quo.
Reyes considers Blachowicz a phenomenal champion and he hopes to see him staring across the octagon from him again one day in the future.
“I mean Jon [Jones] is a joke. It’s a standing joke throughout the entire MMA community. Straight up clown, always makes it about himself,” Reyes said about his former opponent. “The division is awesome. We’ve got all kinds of new up and comers. The light heavyweight division has been exciting. Jan, great champion, great human being and I’ve got nothing but respect for the guy. I think 99 percent of the MMA world feels the same way.
“He’s the only man that’s ever bested me. I respect him. It’s not time to fight him yet. I’ve got to earn that right. But I do want that back. Him and Mr. money bags over there. I’m just so excited to get in there again. It’s going to be so much fun. This guy fits my style perfectly. I’m clean, I’m sharp, I’m tight. He’s a wild child. It’s going to be good. It’s going to be real good.”