The contenders at light heavyweight have simply gotten “too good” for Jones to keep up with, Reyes told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani in a video interview Wednesday.
“He’s moving to heavyweight because those guys are slow,” Reyes said. “You do realize that, right? He can’t keep up with us anymore. After what me and Thiago [Santos] did to him, he’s like, ‘Man, I need to go up. These guys are getting too fast, they’re getting too athletic, they’re getting too good.’ The heavyweights are still slow.”
Jones beat Reyes by controversial unanimous decision at UFC 247 in February. Many felt Reyes should have gotten the nod on the judges’ scorecards and dethroned Jones, who has never been beaten in the cage.
Now, the two rivals seem to be moving on in different divisions.
On Monday, Jones vacated the UFC light heavyweight title that he has held for most of the past nine years. Jones said he will be getting ready to move up to heavyweight. Reyes, meanwhile, will face fellow contender Jan Blachowicz at UFC 253 on Sept. 26 for the vacant belt.
“I think his ego won’t let him admit that I’m the reason [he moved up],” Reyes said. “I know he doesn’t want to rematch me. He gave up the belt. You don’t give up something you’re proud of. … You earned that s—. Why would you just give it up unless you felt like you didn’t earn it?”
Reyes said earlier this month he signed a blank contract to fight at UFC 253. No opponent was written down. It could have been a rematch with Jones for the title if Jones accepted. The other possibility was an interim title fight with Blachowicz.
Ultimately, Jones decided to give up the belt in favor of moving up in weight. In any instance, Reyes said, it had to be some kind of title fight for him to agree to fight in just over a month.
“The whole goal is to get the belt anyway,” Reyes said. “It sucks that I can’t beat Jon for it at this time. But I’ll catch him. I’ll catch him later.”
Reyes said he thinks Blachowicz is a “more dangerous” opponent than Jones would be for him, citing Blachowicz’s big knockout power and ground skills as a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
“Jon doesn’t counterstrike, has no power, and he’s not technical,” Reyes said. “He’s just tricky.”
Reyes (12-1) has the same record that Jones did when Jones won the title in 2011 by beating Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Reyes was 6-0 in the UFC with four finishes before his bout with Jones. At 30, he has been pegged by many, including UFC president Dana White, as the future of the light heavyweight division.
If Reyes beats Blachowicz to become champion, he said he thinks there’s a chance Jones could see dollar signs in a light heavyweight title rematch and return to 205 pounds for a big pay-per-view headliner. But if that doesn’t happen, Reyes said he’s comfortable with the fact that Jones might no longer be in his future.
“At this point, I don’t really give a s— about Jon Jones,” Reyes said. “He’s irrelevant to my life right now. … We’ll see what the future holds, my friends.”