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The bitter taste of a near miss against Jon Jones at UFC 247 still lingers for Dominick Reyes.
Reyes dropped a five-round verdict to Jones in a light heavyweight title bout on Feb. 8, but it was a fight that many observers — including 14 of 21 media scorecards on MMADecisions.com — thought “The Devastator” deserved to win.
Reyes never got his desired rematch. Jones has since vacated the belt with designs on moving up to take on new challenges in the heavyweight division, while Reyes will square off against Jan Blachowicz for the vacant 205-pound crown in the UFC 253 co-main event on Saturday.
“I have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder from that fight,” Reyes admitted at UFC 253 media day. “I feel like this is my first title defense in a lot aspects. This is just writing the wrong and taking my crown.”
Jones is regarded by many as the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time, but Reyes doesn’t believe that not defeating “Bones” for the title will diminish the accomplishment of becoming champion in any way.
“To be completely honest I could give a f—k less what anybody says about my belt,” Reyes said. “I’ll have a gold belt and I’ll have the money to match. So F out of here with that. … It’s another opportunity to get my belt. I’m here to claim what’s mine.”
Reyes, who began his career with 12 consecutive triumphs before losing a heartbreaker to Jones, has the opportunity to begin his own legacy with a victory over Blachowicz in Abu Dhabi.
“[I’m] extremely excited about this moment. It’s the biggest fight of my life,” Reyes said. “It’s an opportunity to be cemented forever as the light heavyweight champion. At this moment in time I’ll be the best light heavyweight in the world and nobody can take that away from me.
“My goal is to be champ for the rest of my career and retire on top,” he added. “That’s everybody’s dream. I’m facing down history. It’s up to me to define my legacy.”