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Dominick Reyes, Jan Blachowicz don’t deserve to live in shadow of Jon Jones after UFC 253 | Opinion

ABU DHABI – It’s clear by now that both Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz are downright sick of talking about Jon Jones. Unfortunately, they’re both likely to keep hearing that name for quite some time.

Reyes (12-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) and Blachowicz (26-8 MMA, 9-5 UFC) meet on Saturday in the co-main event of UFC 253, and the UFC light heavyweight title Jones recently vacated in favor of a move to heavyweight will be on the line.

Both fighters have been asked repeatedly about the validity of the title considering it’s only up for grabs because “Bones” willingly relinquished it, and both have made it clear they don’t see the accomplishment of winning a UFC belt as any less significant simply because they didn’t beat a particular opponent to claim it.

Reyes likely has the biggest gripe. After all, while he dropped a unanimous decision to Jones earlier this year, 14 out of 21 media scores tracked by scored that UFC 247 meeting in favor of “The Devastator.”

“I see it as my belt, and I’m here to claim what’s mine,” Reyes told MMA Junkie at a pre-fight media day promoting Saturday’s event.

For his part, Blachowicz admitted he was initially a little frustrated that his long-awaited shot at UFC gold didn’t also include a chance to also defeat a man many consider the greatest of all-time. But he insists that doesn’t ultimately diminish the importance of the moment.

“In the beginning, when they said, ‘You’ve got a title shot,’ I was happy,” Blachowicz said. “Against Dominick, maybe I was a little bit disappointed it’s not Jon Jones, but after two days, it was OK. It’s the belt.

“Dominick is also a great fighter. He almost beat Jon Jones. It was a really close fight, really close decision, so he’s one of the best, and I’ll catch Jones later, no problem.”

Unfortunately for the winner of Saturday’s bout, Jones’ name is likely to come up time and time again moving forward. His name is written all over the UFC record books, and discussion of any light heavyweight champion’s legacy in the division will understandably elicit at least some type of reference to “Bones.” Both Reyes and Blachowicz will undeniably be burdened with that reality after Saturday night, and it certainly wouldn’t be shocking to see Jones, himself, leading the charge, with a few well-timed barbs on social media.

But these men don’t deserve an asterisk next to their name, regardless of who prevails. The UFC belt isn’t on the line because Jones was stripped of the title. There is no complicated controversy to explain to casual fans to help them understand why the most dominant champion in UFC history isn’t currently wearing gold.

No, by all accounts, this appears to be the start of a new era rather than a pause on one already in existence.

But therein lies the rub.

While the victor of Saturday’s clash certainly does not deserve to have their current legitimacy questioned, how that title reign looks once it ends will be determined by what happens in between.

“I think these guys will fight, one of them will win the title, and then, you know, their careers will speak for themselves,” UFC president Dana White said. “It always sucks when you can’t beat the man – you know, ‘to be the man, you’ve got to beat the man,’ that whole thing – but if these guys win the title and go on a run like Jon Jones has had, their careers will speak for themselves.”

UFC 253 takes place Saturday at Flash Forum at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN2 and ESPN+.


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