Just In Wilson Reis ‘praying that the UFC keeps the flyweight division’ ahead of UFC 236 MMA Life

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Like many Brazilian fighters, Wilson Reis isn’t a fan of facing his countrymen, but with the UFC’s flyweight division seemingly in peril, the veteran isn’t getting picky with his opponents.

“My next bout is against Alexandre Pantoja, who’s also from Brazil,” Reis told MMA Junkie in his native Portuguese. “He’s also well-ranked. Generally, Brazilians don’t like to face other Brazilians in the UFC. I especially don’t like it, but I already knew that this bout would happen sooner than later.”

Reis (23-9 MMA, 7-5 UFC) is currently ranked No. 12 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie MMA flyweight rankings, while Pantoja (20-3 MMA, 4-1 UFC) sits at No. 6. The two face off in a key flyweight matchup at next week’s UFC 236, which takes place April 13 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. The bout takes place on the ESPN-broadcast prelims following early prelims on ESPN+ and preceding a main card on pay-per-view.

Pantoja is certainly the fresher face on the scene, but former title challenger Reis had a feeling their paths would cross – and while Reis isn’t necessarily pleased that he has to face a fellow Brazilian, he’s excited about the matchup, itself.

“I already knew he would be next,” Reis said. “I’m very happy with this matchup. I know that Pantoja is very good. I think he’s a complete fighter, both on the feet and on the ground. It’s going to be a great fight.

“I will look for a knockout or submission, but my preference would be a submission. I plan to put him where we are both good – on the ground. I’ll show how much more skilled I am. I know that it’s going to be a challenging fight but I’ll be very well trained by my coaches. We will be ready.”

Wins are incredibly important right now in the flyweight division, with 125-pounders being released from the organization at alarming rate. UFC President Dana White has refused to reveal his plans for the division, but rumors of its demise are certainly prevalent.

Reis knew his job was on the line in his last outing, and truthfully, it probably is this time around, as well.

“My last bout was against Ben Nguyen; I had been coming off three losses – to Demetrious Johnson, Henry Cejudo, and the split decision to John Moraga,” Reis said. “I was in a difficult situation. I admit it. I knew that if I lost to Ben, I would also lose my job in the UFC, without a doubt. But thankfully, since I had just fought the former champion and current champion and Moraga – all of them very skilled and high in the rankings – I knew the UFC would give me one more chance. I imagined they’d also consider the fact that I’ve been in the UFC for six years.

“I’m very thankful to them. I’ve learned several lessons from my losses in the UFC, regarding my strategy, striking, and grappling. I faced athletes at the highest level. I was able to learn from what went right and what went wrong. When I faced Ben Nguyen, I used my experience to formulate a winning strategy. I would have been happier if I had managed to submit him, but he was also very well trained. I was dominant in that unanimous-decision win. It was a great win.”

Reis could use another great win now, as well. With current champ Henry Cejudo moving up to 135 pounds to challenge for the title and Joseph Benavidez and Jussier Formiga set for a No. 1 contender fight, Reis knows a win would have him just on the outside of those top names. It’s a position Reis has held for the past several years, and he’s hoping the division isn’t shuttered before he gets another run at the very top.

“I’m praying that the UFC keeps the flyweight division,” Reis said. “I think it’s very important to the UFC. All the MMA fans I talk to tell me they love our weight class – it’s very dynamic and technical.

“All combat sports need a lighter weight class. I hope the UFC keeps us on. Up to now, they’ve made no public statement announcing the end of the division. I hope we stay on.”

For more on UFC 236, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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