Dominick Reyes: UFC 229 win overshadowed by ‘childish and very immature’ fiasco, won’t happen at UFC London

LONDON – On Saturday, at UFC on ESPN+ 5, unbeaten Dominick Reyes gets to return to the octagon following an experience that was both awesome and a little frustrating.

Reyes’s last fight took place in October, at UFC 229, against Ovince Saint Preux. Although Reyes ultimately had to go past the first round for the first time in his UFC career (and only second time overall), he looked dominant against his highest-profile foe yet, coming close to a finish before walking away with a unanimous-decision win.

“I destroyed ‘OSP’” is how Reyes recalls it, and he got to do it amid all the extra flair and media attention that comes with a big pay-per-view fight week in Las Vegas. A performance like that, against an opponent like that, on a card like that? Yeah, that’s pretty much the perfect recipe for a breakout moment.

But we’re sure that, when you think UFC 229, what sticks out to you is not a fight – not a sanctioned one, anyway. Rather, you probably remember the brawl involving champ Khabib Nurmagomedov, ex-champ Conor McGregor and their camps.

So while he believes UFC 229 was a good experience and the fight went amazing, Reyes admits he could have gone without the main event’s “extracurriculars.”

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“It took away from my shine a little bit,” Reyes told MMA Junkie. “It was a little frustrating, because it’s kind of childish and very immature. We’re professionals. You’re acting like a kid, throwing a tantrum. You won. Who wins and is a sore winner? I’ve never heard of that before.

“That was a little bit frustrating for me, because my performance was a bit overshadowed by that whole fiasco, and this time I don’t think that’s going to happen. We’ve got consummate professionals on this card, and we’ve got some scrappers, and my performance is not going to be overshadowed.”

Still, Reyes said, that doesn’t take away from the value of the type of win that he got that evening. And even if what stuck on the minds of media and fans wasn’t his display that infamous night, Reyes is back and ready to create some new memories on Saturday, against yet another highly ranked foe in Volkan Oezdemir.

It’s a matchup that Reyes (10-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC) wasn’t necessarily expecting. In fact, Reyes didn’t even think ex-title-challenger Oezdemir (15-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC), now riding a two-fight skid, was on the radar for him. Once the name was offered, though, Reyes had an immediate and enthusiastic response.

“Heck yeah, perfect,” Reyes said. “He fits right into my style. It’s classic brawler vs. kind-of-boxer matchup, where I’m mobile, in-and-out, and I’m stick-and-move, and he just wants to plant his feet and just throw bombs. It fits perfectly into the way I fight. I’m going to make him miss, and I’m going to make him pay.”

Other than style, the pairing offers other interesting angles. Oezdemir was once that fighter who came out of nowhere and, with the assistance of lightning-fast knockouts, quickly made his way up to a title challenge. Reyes, in turn, finished his three initial UFC foes in one round and is now establishing himself as a serious contender.

But don’t say that Reyes is out to take Oezdemir’s spot; the way Reyes sees it, the spot has always been his. Everyone has their time, he says, and Oezdemir had his chance at UFC gold. Now, “it’s my time to rise.”

And, as far as said rise goes, Reyes sees a quick one.

“I’m no longer a prospect,” Reyes said. “That’s out of the question. I’m a contender now. I’ve worked too hard. I have four finishes in the UFC, what cases can go against me? And I beat – (Jared) Cannonier was top-15, ‘OSP’ was top-5 at the time when I signed the contract, now Volkan is top-5. What else do I got to do? And all those guys were former title challengers, you know? Who do they want me to fight? (Anthony) Smith? Who else? I get it, but it’s my turn.”

Of course, there are other people who might disagree. One example is former middleweight Thiago “Marreta” Santos, who’s finished all his three fights since moving up to light heavyweight and has been making a case for his own title shot. There’s Corey Anderson, who’s also riding a solid three-fight streak against tough contenders, or even fast-rising fan-favorite Johnny Walker.

With the line forming to decide who will be the next man to challenge for Jon Jones’ belt, one could argue that a statement win – like, say, a finish – on Saturday might be the thing to make Reys’ case a lock. But, the way he sees it, he doesn’t even need to go that far.

“Five in a row is five in a row, period,” Reyes said. “You beat Volkan, that’s another guy put you in the top-5. Who’s ahead of me? ‘Marreta’? Smith? I don’t know. I’m ready to get down, man. Either way, I’m coming out and I want to put on a show. I’m a performer. I love performing. I love hitting, I love being hit, as weird as that sounds. I live for this (expletive).”

Right now, Reyes’ focus is on Oezdemir. His whole camp, which he now does at Colorado’s Elevation Fight Team, was built around that. But that doesn’t mean Reyes hasn’t already started preparing for an eventual meaning with the champ.

“My whole coming up, from the beginning, has been Jon,” Reyes said. “When I was throwing punches early on, it would be like, ‘Oh, that would work against Jim from whoever, but that’s not going to work against Jon.’ So it’s always been to perfect everything so that when I fight Jon, I’m ready.”

To hear from Reyes, check out the video above.

And for more on UFC on ESPN+ 5, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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