Reyes, the fighter who most recently faced Jones inside the octagon, gave the now-former chaamp a big scare in the main event of UFC 247 in February 2020. Most believed the now 32-year-old became the first fighter to legitimately defeat Jones after those 25 minutes in Houston. But the three judges scoring the bout were in the minority.
“Absolutely, I feel the same, I was there and so was everyone else in the arena, and anyone who has any kind of a mind about fighting knows I won that fight,” Reyes said on The MMA Hour.
Since that night, Reyes has suffered back-to-back knockout losses: Jan Blachowicz in his second opportunity to became champion at UFC 253; and now-champion Jiri Prochazka in brutal fashion at UFC Vegas 25 in May 2021.
No matter how much he tries to not think about such a pivotal moment in his life and career, Reyes can’t completely block it out. How could he?
“I don’t think about it often, but I think about it every once in a while,” he said. “In this situation, for instance, right now, the current champ is a guy I lost to, the former champ is a guy I lost to, the former former champ is a guy I lost to. With the way things are ending up, I think about it.
“It could all be different. It could all be so different right now. I did win that fight with Jon, but if I did get the nod — or however you want to say it — and I’m the champ, who knows? Maybe I don’t fight Jan, maybe I fight someone else. It all could be so different.
“I should be in a completely different situation right now,” Reyes continues. “It is what it is. I’ve made my decisions, I’ve done what I’ve done, I’m here now, and luckily, I’m still alive, I still have another chance at it, and I’m excited about it.
“But it was still eating me up in the Jan fight. It’s a real f’d up situation, man. Some would say it was a fork in the road for my life. Everything would’ve changed that night if the judges would’ve done the right thing.”
A month after the Jones fight, the world completely changed with the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut down everything for a time. While the UFC was still putting on events in empty arenas, Reyes believed his momentum came to a halt because he wasn’t able to rub elbows with the fans who believed he had slayed the proverbial dragon in Jones.
Additionally, Reyes said the UFC was planning on putting together a rematch between Jones and Reyes before Jones decided to make a career-altering weight class jump and vacate the 205-pound title.
“That was the whole thing, we were going to run it back,” Reyes said. “Then the whole pandemic started, I don’t know what he started doing at home, he started to feel a certain kind of way, and then it was, ‘I’m going to heavyweight, screw that. There’s too much risk, I don’t get paid enough to fight him. I’m not going to fight him again without double. You have to pay me double to fight that guy again.’
“What? I was getting contender money, I should be getting pay-per-view [points] this next fight. It was weird how it happened — he was down, it was going to happen, Dana was like, ‘We’re going to do it,’ then all of a sudden, ‘Nope, I’m going to heavyweight.’ As soon as he said he was going to heavyweight they said, ‘You have to fight Jan for the interim title.’ Cool, let’s do it, I’m going to win, yes, let’s go. I was ready to go, but deep down in my heart I wasn’t. That wasn’t the fight I wanted.”
With a really difficult three-fight stretch in the rear-view mirror, Reyes is hopeful to return to the octagon this fall. The No. 9 ranked light heavyweight in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings will be armed with his physical skills. But maybe more importantly, he’s got a new outlook on himself, as well as the fight game in general.
“That was my first go-around, my first time around in the UFC,” Reyes said. “I made it to the top, I did my thing, got another shot, and it didn’t work out. Now I get another chance at it and I’m going to do it right this time. I’m going to get the title this time.”