For Jon Delos Reyes (7-4), getting the opportunity to compete with the UFC in their first trip to the Philippines will mark one of the most thrilling experiences in his fight career. His mother will watch him fight for the first time, he’ll battle for the first time with the UFC in the land of his heritage and he’ll also look to get his hand raised for the first time in the Octagon when he takes on Roldan Sangcha’an.
“I am full-blooded Filipino, just born and raised in Guam,” Delos Reyes said in an interview with The Fight Corner. “It means a lot, especially this fight. This is the first time my mom ever watched me fight in MMA. So, I’m pretty stoked and I need to win. I’m so hungry and there is a lot of fire for me right now.”
In his first two outings with the UFC, the 27-year-old has struggled to find his way into the win column. In his first UFC fight, he was submitted by Dustin Kimura. Then Delos Reyes moved down to flyweight and dropped a decision to the division’s latest title challenger, Kyoji Horiguchi. Though he’s heading into Roldan Sangcha’an’s (4-1) hometurf, “The Heat” has been so focused on putting all of his skills together to improve for his next challenge.
Knowing his back is up against the wall and that a win is imperative, Delos Reyes returned to train in Guam. He had done a stint at the MMA Lab ahead of his last outing, but figured preparing in a climate similar to that of the Philippines would help him in this camp. Working back at home has given him the extra motivation ahead of his May 16th bout. With the effort he’s put in to coming out ahead, Delos Reyes believes he has many more advantages than Sangcha-an does.
“I have better jiu-jitsu,” said Delos Reyes. “He might have good takedowns off of his striking, but in striking, we match up pretty well. I want to push the pace on this guy and I know he’s going to push the pace. It should be a Fight of the Night. I could finish it at any time, maybe in the first round, first minute.”
Delos Reyes started his on his journey towards becoming a pro fighter in 2005. Like many mixed martial artists, he took up jiu-jitsu to learn self-defense, then kickboxing and it led him to want to compete in the sport. He tried out for The Ultimate Fighter season 18 and made it to the final phase of the audition process. However, after the interview process, he wasn’t called to join the cast. Delos Reyes thought perhaps his quiet and reserved demeanor could’ve been why. But that experience sparked a fire in him to push harder to make it to the big show.
“It just motivated me so much to make it past the first section of the tryout,” said Delos Reyes. “There was so much talent there, it was pretty packed. It just showed that coming from a small island, you just have to work hard and have a good work ethic. It lit a big fire under me to get better.”
Representing Guam fills Delos Reyes with pride. As of right now, he is only the second fighter on the UFC roster to come from the Pacific island. Jon Tuck was the first. Nothing would mean more to him than to leave a lasting impression with the fans watching him battle at the SM Mall of Asia in Manila.
“It means a lot, me being the second person. I was pretty much a dark horse in Guam, just no one really talked about me. I was just still trying to fight and keep grinding and trying to get out there. So it means so much to me to represent Guam in one of the biggest shows in the world.”
Delos Reyes recalled the day the UFC called him up to fight on their Singapore card last year. He was at work when his friend told him: “You got the call…The UFC. Get ready. You got to get ready for the fight.”
“I just stepped out of work and then I kind of broke down,” Delos Reyes recalled. “It was pretty crazy to get that call. It’s a dream come true.”
Delos Reyes promised to do everything in his power to stay right where he is. That starts with a victory on May 16 in Manila. Delos Reyes and Sangcha’an will collide on the preliminary card for UFC Fight Night 66.