HOUSTON — Jon Jones believes he’s a superior fighter to Dominick Reyes.
But the UFC light heavyweight champion knows that he can’t underestimate Reyes on Saturday night when they meet in the main event of UFC 247.
“For him to be so inexperienced there’s something inside me that lets me know, Jon you cannot take this guy lightly,” Jones said. “In a way he could be more dangerous than the guys that are more experienced because he just doesn’t know any better.”
Jones (25-1-1) and the fourth-ranked Reyes (12-0) highlight a 12-bout event at the Toyota Center in Houston. The champion looks to improve to 14-0 in title fights when he meets Reyes, a rising star in the sport who worked as an IT support specialist.
“I’m knocking on the door,” Reyes said. “I’m just days away from reaching what I believe is my destiny and that’s to be the greatest light heavyweight in the world. It’s life-changing.”
Jones said he’s worked to get stronger to prepare for this fight and that’s he’s studied Reyes extensively leading up to the event. He’s knows he’s going to get the best shot from Reyes because he’s wanted this opportunity to dethrone Jones for so long.
“When you’re fighting someone like that you’ve got to take a step back,” Jones said. “You’re dealing with a wild dog here. You can’t just reach in there and get bit. You got to come at him with a really strategic approach.”
While Jones is one of the undisputed stars of the sport, Reyes is much more of a unknown commodity despite his undefeated record.
“Everybody knows how great Jon Jones is but not a lot of people know how tough Dominick Reyes is,” UFC President Dana White said. “This guy is young, fast, has got knockout power in both hands. He’s hungry and he truly believes he can beat Jon Jones. So, this is a really good fight.”
Before beginning his UFC career, Reyes was a wrestler and a football player. He was a defensive back at Stony Brook University and dreamed of playing in the NFL. But when he wasn't drafted, he embarked on his UFC career.
It’s this background that led to a comment Reyes made recently that irked Jones. Reyes said Jones had never faced an “athlete” before.
“I think he’s reaching, and my job is just to call him out on his silly comments,” Jones said. “The guy is hanging onto these wild ideas to pump himself up. And my job is to take his ideas away and send him into the fight with nothing.”
Despite ruffling the champ’s feathers with that quote, Reyes hasn’t backed down from it.
“That comment was based on, I’m faster than him, I’m more agile and I have all these skills that I’ve acquired through other sports,” Reyes said. “My whole lifetime of athletic achievements has prepared me for this moment.”
Reyes has watched and admired Jones for years and admitted to having an eye on him even before getting into the sport.
“I wasn’t really studying him back then, I was more of a fan,” Reyes said. “But I was aware of everything he was doing, and I was impressed. It was cool to watch him win those titles and do those things but as soon as I got in the sport I was like, ‘This is the mark. This is who we’ve got to beat.'"
Before Jones and Reyes meet Saturday night another belt will be on the line when Valentina Shevchenko defends her women's flyweight title against Katlyn Chookagian. Shevchenko (18-3) has won four bouts in a row and Chookagian (13-2) is the top contender for the belt.