Jon Delos Reyes represents the Pacific island of Guam every time he fights. It’s where he was born and raised but the 27 year old who will be fighting at UFC Fight Night Manila on May 16th says he has strong roots in the Philippines.
“I was born on Guam but both of my parents are Filipino and I still have lots of family in the Philippines. My siblings are actually going to college there.”
Delos Reyes will be taking on Filipino flyweight Roldan Sangcha-an on the UFC’s first ever card in Manila which is set for the SM Mall of Asia Arena on a Saturday morning and says he had no qualms about accepting a fight with a fighter from the Philippines.
“Roldan is a draw in the Philippines and so am I in the region so it makes perfect sense to me and I was not too surprised when they offered me this fight. I’ll fight whoever they want me to fight, as long as it gets me higher in rank with every win. I’m looking forward to the fight.”
Both Delos Reyes and Sangcha-an came up through the ranks at PXC and are following in the footsteps of promotional alumni like Hyung Gyu Lim, Jon Tuck and Michinori Tanaka who have all made their way from the Asian Pacific promotion into the UFC.
Delos Reyes was so desperate to make the transition from fighting for PXC and local promotions like Trench Warz and Rites of Passage to competing inside the Octagon that he made the 6,000 mile journey from Guam to Las Vegas in order to try out for TUF 18.
He didn’t make the cut as a cast member on the UFC’s reality show, but Delos Reyes did succeed in catching the eye of matchmaker Sean Shelby who was sufficiently impressed to offer him a contract and a spot on the organization’s first ever card in Singapore last year.
Delos Reyes relocated to the MMA Lab in Arizona to train for that fight and looked on course to blow away fellow PXC veteran Dustin Kimura but made the fatal error of leaving an arm hanging loose as he was going to work with ground and pound and got caught in an armbar.
It was a tough loss, particularly as the Guam native had made such a strong start to the fight and it prompted something of a rethink from Delos Reyes who decided to drop down to flyweight for future fights.
“I have always felt like I was an average sized bantamweight but at flyweight I am one of the bigger guys in the weight class. I have enough speed to compete with these guys and my strength should be an advantage. Being that this is my second fight at 125lbs the cut should be a lot easier.”
Delos Reyes has a black belt in Sanshou and a purple belt in BJJ and has competed successfully in numerous competitions and tournaments outside of MMA winning gold medals at both Grappler’s Quest and NAGA.
So far he has been unable to replicate this level of success inside the Octagon, with his second UFC outing bringing another defeat, this one at the hands of Kyoji Horiguchi, who is slated to fight for the flyweight title in April.
On paper the unranked Sangcha-an represents a far easier fight than rising flyweight star Horiguchi but Delos Reyes has plenty of respect for his May 16th opponent.
“I have seen some of Roldan’s fights and he’s a very talented young fighter who is very tenacious and has a lot of heart,” he told me.
This might be the UFC’s first ever foray into Filipino territory but the surroundings will be very familiar to Delos Reyes who is relishing the opportunity to return to Manila.
“I fought in the Manila twice before for another organization and have done multiple BJJ tournaments there so it feels like home. The fans are great and are very educated in the sport, fighting is rich in the Filipino culture.”
Nine of Delos Reyes’ 11 fights have finished in the first round including both his UFC outings and he has not been the distance since 2008 so fans should expect plenty of early action when he goes up against Sangcha-an.
Sangcha-an is a member of the famed Team Lakay camp in Baguio and Delos Reyes has already beaten one of his teammates, submitting Troy Bantiag in the opening round at PXC 33 in Manila three years ago.
The rivalry between the Philippines and Guam has been played out for years in regional promotions like PXC and the URCC with fighters from the Asian country and the Pacific US territory putting on some fierce battles inside either the ring or the cage.
It means Delos Reyes will be following a well trodden path when he travels to Manila to take on a Filipino and he is determined to secure the win he needs to prolong his stay in the UFC.
“Getting in the UFC was a dream come true but it’s not enough for me just to say I have fought in the Octagon, I want to prove that I am good enough to compete with the division’s elite. I love fighting in Manila, I’ve never lost a fight there before and I’m going to be taking that win back to Guam with me.”
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