Dominick Reyes rising fast in UFC, eyes 'cheater' Jon Jones

Dominick Reyes is coming off a dominant win against Ovince Saint Preux in October. Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC

Dominick Reyes is a self-proclaimed "troubleshooter by nature." The 29-year-old loves identifying a problem and doing everything possible to fix it. He proved this each day for two years, from 2015 to 2017, as the IT specialist at Oak Hills High School in San Bernardino County, California.

Computer not working? Call Mr. Reyes. The projector won't turn on? Call Mr. Reyes.

"If it plugged in to any kind of outlet or any kind of Ethernet cord, I was responsible for it," he said.

So when Reyes enters the Octagon on Saturday in London for a matchup with Volkan Oezdemir -- a former UFC light heavyweight title challenger with one-shot power -- he's confident he'll be ready for anything that may come his way.

"There's always going to be a problem in front of you, but it's how you address it and deal with it that shows you who you are," Reyes said. "My fight IQ is higher [than Oezdemir's] in terms of shot selection and what I'm trying to do. I'm good at sticking to my game plan, but then I'm really good at adapting. I just feel overall I'm just faster. I'm faster everywhere."

Reyes, of Hesperia, California, is one of the hottest prospects in MMA. Undefeated through 10 fights, he ranks No. 8 in the light heavyweight division. Though he has big victories over veterans Jeremy Kimball (first-round rear-naked choke) and Jared Cannonier (first-round TKO), his most recent win against Ovince Saint Preux truly put him on the map.

Fighting on the main card of the biggest event of 2018 -- UFC 229, headlined by Conor McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov, in Las Vegas -- Reyes completely destroyed his opponent. Saint Preux was battered throughout with sharp leg kicks and heavy punch combinations. As time expired in the three-round bout, Reyes landed a left hook to the face that dropped Saint Preux. Reyes thought it was a knockout, but officials ruled that the fight would go to a decision.

The exact result, eventually called a unanimous decision win, did not matter to Reyes, fans or media alike. What mattered was that he had announced himself on the biggest stage as a force in the division.

"The McGregor card was huge and the placement they gave me, too," Reyes said. "But beating OSP the way I did -- that says more than just being on the card. He's been a staple in the division for years. He had close to 20 UFC fights when I fought him and was No. 6 in the division.

"It did [surprise me]. It's one of those things where you train, do things and then you think you are who you think you are, and then go out there and prove it to yourself."

Reyes, despite the long winning streak, wants to make one thing clear: He doesn't believe he deserves a light heavyweight title shot right now. He thinks he still has more to show. But one or two more strong performances could get him in the picture.

"I'm trying to build my legacy," Reyes said. "I'm not trying to be a flash in the pan. I want to be here for a long time. When I become champion, I want to stay champion. I don't want people to think, 'He got lucky and got one shot.' I want to dominate everybody I fight."

Reyes has one name on his mind for a next opponent, if he defeats Oezdemir on Saturday: Alexander Gustafsson. The former title challenger is coming off a loss to champion Jon Jones and faces Anthony Smith in Sweden on June 1. Reyes calls Gustafsson "a legend" and wants to add that name to his resume.

And if all goes as planned, Jones could be next after that.

"That's the dream. Who doesn't want to be the guy to take out Jon Jones?" Reyes said. "I'm a clean athlete. I've been fighting clean my whole life. I've been drug-tested since college all the time. When I get there, it's not going to be just for me. It's going to be for all of the clean athletes out there and all of the straight guys who get passed over for the dirty guys because he's on top right now. I feel a moral obligation to the people who do things right.

"You take steroids, you're a cheater. Period. There's no gray area with me. Did you take steroids? Yes? Then you're a cheater. It's in your nature to cheat," Reyes continued. "He's considered one of the greatest ever. If I can be the guy who beats him, that's part of my legacy. That's legendary status."