Look beyond the typical back-and-forth banter of fight week for a moment. Yonder for a bit past the click-on-me headlines written off the interviews and media scrums.
Do this and discover that Dominick Reyes and Chris Weidman share a very similar career path.
"He was once where I am now,” Reyes told Newsday on Wednesday. “He was 9-0 fighting for the title. I'm 11-0, fighting him, a former champion. So his career was on the rise and now it's kind of going the other direction. I'm entering my prime, he's 35 now. His career path in the past is very similar to my career path now."
The Baldwin-raised Weidman dethroned Anderson Silva in the summer of 2013 to become the middleweight champion. He became the first fighter to beat Silva in the UFC and just the eighth fighter in history to be an undefeated UFC champion. He defended it three times after that, the second longest streak in UFC middleweight history.
Reyes, a former Stony Brook football player from California, is undefeated and ranked fourth in the light heavyweight division. And the young, rising fighter with a known-but-not-well-known profile will be the first to welcome Weidman, the veteran, to the light heavyweight division on Friday night at UFC Boston.
"He's had the whole pie,” Reyes, 29, said. “He's won the championship. He's been champ multiple times. He's had his entire pie. He's trying to take my slice right now. I just see that as greed."
The light heavyweight division, once the premier weight class of the UFC, has thinned out recently. Jon Jones rules the division as its dominant champion, and he has done so since 2011, save for the times he self-imploded with suspensions, arrests and being stripped of the title on multiple occasions. Still, he’s never really lost a fight (his one loss was a disqualification for an illegal elbow in a fight he was completely dominating and some say should have been stopped earlier).
"Going up to light heavyweight, one of the main reasons I’m excited is definitely because there's a guy there that people think can't be beat and people considered one of the greatest of all time, if not the greatest of all time,” Weidman said Wednesday during a media scrum in Boston. “And that's what really excited me when I was down at middleweight [with Silva]. So to have the opportunity to not just shock the world once but also twice in my career, and beat two of the guys that people think are the GOATs, that's the legacy I think I want to leave behind."
It’s not inconceivable to think that the winner of Weidman vs. Reyes could get the next title shot against Jones. The people ranked ahead of Reyes – Daniel Cormier, Thiago Santos and Anthony Smith – all have lost to Jones already. Weidman (14-4) was ranked sixth at middleweight before moving up a division after losing to Jacare Souza last November.
"An emphatic win over Chris Weidman, I think will get me in that title conversation to get my shot,” Reyes said. “The same thing he's saying about what beating me does for himself is exactly what it does for me beating him. He's just trying to replace me with himself."
Weidman (204 pounds) and Reyes (203) both made weight Thursday morning.
Reyes last fought in March when he won a split decision over Volkan Oezdemir, a former title challenger. It was Reyes’ toughest test yet and the only time he faced a split decision in his MMA career.
"That particular fight taught me that my will to win is very strong and that if things don't go your way It's OK,” Reyes said. “There's still more rounds to play.”
Reyes said he expects Weidman, a two-time All-American wrestler at both Hofstra and Nassau Community College and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Matt Serra, to use his grappling pedigree as a key part of his fight strategy. Reyes is a big striker and has six wins by knockout.
"He's bigger than most of the guys I've fought, but as far as precision and dangerous strikers, I think I've fought more dangerous guys,” Weidman said. “The fact that he has to worry about the takedowns and that jiu-jitsu, because that could be the end of the night for him, will change the stand-up as well. I think me just being in the cage with him and him having to deal with all that multi-tasking is really the game-changer."