Dominick Reyes admits he ‘lost my way’ after Jon Jones loss: ‘I had to humble myself’

Dominick Reyes arguably deserved to beat Jon Jones when they met back in 2020. Instead, the controversial loss had a lasting impact on his career.

Following an undefeated start to his UFC run, Reyes earned a title shot and pushed Jones to the brink in a back-and-forth title fight at UFC 247. As much as he believes he should have walked out of that arena with the UFC light heavyweight title around his waist, the now 34-year-old fighter felt like he had to do something different to get back to that peak again.

So he left his teammates and coaches in California and began exploring options at different gyms, because Reyes felt like that’s what he needed if he was going to eventually capture UFC gold. What resulted instead was a tumultuous run that included three knockout losses in a row and questions if Reyes should even continue fighting.

“I lost my way,” Reyes said on The MMA Hour. “I was looking for something I already had. I thought I needed to do more after the Jones fight. I felt like I could have given more somehow, when in reality, I gave everything I had and then some. It took a lot from me. I was searching for more and I lost my way looking for something that wasn’t there.

“I used to think, ‘Oh, I need to go to a bigger gym and work with better guys,’ and that’s not always the case. You’ve got to do focused work for you. What would work for you. Not going out there and searching for something that you already have.”

Reyes admits his wake-up call didn’t come from a friend or relative pointing out his mistakes. It turns out losing consecutive bouts to Jan Blachowicz, Jiri Prochazka, and Ryan Spann provided Reyes with all the evidence he needed to a reunite with his old team.

“Who are my couple of opponents? They helped me out,” Reyes said. “That’s the only way to learn in this industry, by losing fights and getting those real wake-up calls and those reality checks. ‘You’re not doing something right. This is not how you fight. You’re making some serious mistakes here. What do you got to do to get back to you? What makes you special?’

“Going to work with Glover [Teixeira] and Alex [Pereira] and them, yeah, they’re great fighters and everything, but they don’t know what makes me special, truly. They weren’t there in the beginning. They don’t know my entire journey. They have not seen me come up from a little guy to who I am now. It’s hard for them to help improve my skills when they don’t really know me.”

Going back to his old coaches wasn’t as easy as just showing up to the gym one day like nothing ever happened. Reyes knew it was going to take more than that to mend fences.

“I had to humble myself,” Reyes said. “I had to come in and say, ‘Listen, I made a mistake, would you guys be willing to take me back?’ I went around searching for things that I thought I needed, but I actually didn’t. It’s all love. Really, truly.”

As difficult as it all was, Reyes couldn’t be happier with the results.

At UFC Louisville this past Saturday, Reyes secured his first win in nearly five years when he knocked out former GLORY kickboxer Dustin Jacoby in the opening round. It may not have made him a UFC champion like a win over Jones would’ve done in 2020, but it showed Reyes that everything he went through was worth it.

“I just stayed the course,” Reyes said. “I never gave up on myself. I just kept fighting, kept training, kept getting better. Here I am back in the winner’s circle, two-year layoff from fighting and it’s like I never left.”

Following the emphatic knockout, Reyes felt like he was guaranteed to get rewarded with a post-fight Performance of the Night bonus, but he wasn’t actually among the four fighters handed that extra $50,000 paycheck.

That changed after Reyes reached out directly to UFC CEO Dana White, who wasn’t in attendance at UFC Louisville so didn’t make the call on the bonuses handed out that night.

“I recently talked to Dana [White] and I got the bonus now,” Reyes revealed. “I messaged him and we talked and he said, ‘Yeah, you absolutely deserve it,’ so now I got the bonus. He wasn’t there that night so it’s hard say what happened that night and how it felt in the arena. Because if you were in the arena, I was the performance of the night.

“I’ll never forget how loud it was that night. I can still feel it. I can still feel it going through my body, the energy of all those people.”

As far as what comes next, Reyes isn’t thinking too far ahead. He really hopes to get at least one more fight in 2024, although he’s not sweating the details about when it happens.

The same goes for future aspirations of title contention, because getting lost in that pursuit at least partially played in a part in the struggles Reyes endured over the past few years.

“I’m not even thinking about that,” Reyes said of the title. “I’m just enjoying this, and then the next fight and then the next fight, and then we’ll see. It’s one of those things where, there’s no point in reaching to that right now.

“That’s always the goal, to be champ. Always the goal to be a champ. I’m not here to just fight and that’s it. I’m here to be champ, yes, but I’m not there yet. Let’s continue to win, continue to put it together and then we’ll get there.”

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